Korean Martyrs a Step Closer to Canonisation

Over 124 Koreans who lived between 1791 and 1888 recognised as martyrs for their refusal to renounce their faith.

More than 100 lay people persecuted for their faith in Korea are among those advancing towards canonisation.

In a decree on 7 February, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to promulgate the causes of the Korean Catholics as well as a bishop, a religious Sister, and two priests who are in the various stages of the canonisation process.

Layman Paul Yun Ji-chung, along with 123 others who lived in Korea between 1791 and 1888, have been recognised as martyrs for their refusal to renounce their faith.

“The beatification of the Korean martyrs is great news for the Korean Church. I am full of joy and I thank the Holy See for such a decision,” Archbishop of Seoul, Msg Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who is a newly appointed cardinal, said.

“Looking at the history, the Korean martyrs are great models of holiness who crossed the barriers of social status and loved their neighbour without gender discrimination, social class, religion. They were promoters of human rights and had an important role in the history of the entire Korean nation.”

In an interview with Fides, Mgr Yeom, said that those who want to follow the example of the martyrs are called to embrace and cherish each other in order to make the world a better, more just and more fraternal place.

He thanked all those in Korea who have shown interest in this event, especially the government, and all communities and sectors of society, including non-Christians.

Archbishop of Seoul, Msg. Andrew Yeom Soo-jung,

The beatification of the Korean martyrs is to take place on 15 August and there are increased hopes that Pope Francis might visit Korea for this occasion as well as taking up a longstanding invitation to attend the opening day of the Asian Youth Day, on 13 August.

Yun Ji-chung came from a noble family and converted to Catholicism at the age of 28. He encouraged his mother and other family members to convert as well.

In 1790, three years after his baptism, Yun Ji-chung opposed the authorities by rejecting the use of Confucian ancestral rites for his mother’s funeral, saying that such rites were irrational. He was beheaded on 8 December 1791 at the age of 32.

Paul Yun Ji- chung and 123 companions were proclaimed Servants of God in 2003 by John Paul II. Their story spans from 1785 until 1882, a period in which more than 10,000 Catholics were killed.

Their story is considered an inspiration and a source of renewal for the Church in Korea that dedicates the month of September to worship and to pilgrimage to the places of martyrdom.

Another martyr, Franciscan priest Fr Francesco Zirano, was recognised with the title, Servant of God. Killed in 1603 in Algiers, Fr Zirano had travelled there in an attempt to rescue his cousin who had been captured by pirates and made a slave.

Fr Zirano was beaten and put into prison soon after his arrival. Due to a case of mistaken identity, the priest was sentenced to death. He refused to renounce his faith and spent his last days encouraging the other Christians in prison.

The pronouncement of “heroic virtue” has been made for three others who died in the last century: Jesus Maria Echavarria y Aguirre, Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico and founder of the Catechist Sisters of Guadalupe, died in 1954; Fr Faustino Ghilardi of the Order of Friars Minor, who died in 1937; and Sr Maria Rocio of Jesus Crucified, who belonged to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Love of God and died in 1956.


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