Korean martyrs’ example motivates to build a better Church
Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon said that the Church of Korea, being founded by the laity, made it connect more to the memory of its martyrs.
Catholics in South Korea last Friday celebrated the liturgical memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the first native 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 our contemporary church also can live on their example," Bishop Lazzaro You Heung- sik of Daejeon said on the occasion.
“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,” said Father Stephen Kim, a priest of the Archdiocese of Seoul.
He said that the Church of Korea, being founded by the laity, made it connect more to the memory of its martyrs.
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.
Andrea Kim Taegon was born in 1821 into a noble Christian family, growing up in a 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.
More than 10,000 Koreans died as martyrs during the age of persecution. Bishop You Heung- sik said, "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."
Two groups of martyrs were beatified, first in 1925 and the other in 1968. In 1984, all 103 of them were canonised by Pope John Paul II in Seoul. Ten of them, three bishops and seven priests, were non-Korean. All the others were Korean catechists and believers.
Today 10% of the population is Catholic, growing each year in strength.