Diocese announces DNA confirmation.All three had been beatified in 2014. Bishop John Kim Son-tae: 'This is an amazing and monumental event'.
Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The remains of the first three South Korean Catholic martyrs have been found near Jeonju. The discovery was announced today during a press conference by the Diocese of Jeonju, which is located 243 km south of the capital Seoul.
Through archaeological investigations and DNA tests, it was possible to confirm that the remains belong to Paul Yun Ji-chung and James Kwon Sang-yeon, beheaded in 1791, and Yun's younger brother, Francis Yun Ji-heon, hung drawn and quartered a decade later.
The three were two brothers and a cousin who belonged to a Jeonju noble family. Paul Yun Ji-chung was the first convert to Christianity to be baptized. In 1791 - obeying Bishop Gouvea of Peking who banned ancestor worship in the territories under his jurisdiction - he destroyed the family altar. The episode created a scandal at court: arrested together with his cousin James Kwon Sang-yeon, he refused to abandon the Christian faith and was killed on December 8, 1791. Ten years later, his younger brother Francis Yun Ji-heon also died in a new wave of persecution against Christians.
The relics of the three were spotted in March in Wanju, in what had been plotted as a burial site for the martyrs and was being converted into a shrine. "The discovery of the remains is a truly amazing and monumental event," Bishop John Kim Son-tae, head of the Jeonju diocese, said in a statement."This is because our Church, which has grown on the foundation of the bloodshed by martyrs, has finally found the remains of the people who began the history of martyrdom," he said.
The prelate added that he gives "deep thanks, praise and glory to God, by whose providence this happened." "I would like to share this overwhelming emotion and joy with fellow believers," he added.
The martyrs were among the first Catholics killed by Korean rulers who feared that the spread of Catholicism would undermine the nation's dominant ideology based on Confucianism.
All three were beatified along with 120 other Korean martyrs by Pope Francis in 2014 during his apostolic trip to Korea. This year, the local Church is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of its first priest, St. Andrew Kim, who was also killed in hatred of the faith in 1846 at the age of 25.