AsiaNews) - The liturgical memorial of the Korean Martyrs " is always a
big feast for Korean Catholics . We are very proud of their testimony of faith,
and pray with even more intensity in view of the upcoming canonization of the
martyrs of Korea." Fr. Stephen
Kim , a priest of the Archdiocese of Seoul, tells AsiaNews that " the particular birth of the Church of Korea, founded by the
laity, makes us even more connected to the memory of our martyrs ."
Similarly, the Bishop of Daejeon , Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung- sik , celebrated a great liturgical function to commemorate St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest , and his companions who were martyred in the nineteenth century : "We have prayed that their example give rise to a continuous drive to good, so that also our contemporary church can live on their example. "
Andrea Kim Taegon was born in 1821 into a noble Christian family, growing up in an milieu bathed in Christian principles. His father had turned their home into a 'house church' that attracted Christians and neophytes seeking baptism alike. When the authorities discovered him, he refused to give up his faith and died a martyr's death at the age of 25.
Lay people founded the Korean Church and still support it. The Christian faith arrived in Korea in the 17th century with foreign delegations that visited Beijing every year.
However, the new religion was unfavourably received by the local government, which fiercely persecuted it for centuries. Today 10 per cent of the population is Catholic, growing each year in strength.
More than 10,000 Koreans died as martyrs during the age of persecution. Two groups were beatified in 1925 and then 1968. On 6 May 1984, all 103 of them were canonised by Pope John Paul II in Seoul. Ten of them were non-Korean (three bishops and seven priests). All the others, catechists and believers, were Korean. According to Msgr . You "this ferocity has pushed our people to respond more vigorously. We have faced wars and dictatorships in the light of this extraordinary grace. We must be worthy of it ."