Pope Francis praises martyred Korean priest at Vatican Mass

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St Peters Square after the Wednesday general audience May 7 2014 Credit Daniel Ibez CNA 3 CNA 5 7 14 Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after the Wednesday general audience, May 7, 2014. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

A Vatican Mass in the Korean language on Saturday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of martyred priest St. Andrew Kim Taegon, whom Pope Francis praised as “an exemplary witness of heroic faith.”

In a message, Pope Francis called the saint a tireless apostle of evangelization, even “in difficult times, marked by persecution and suffering for your people.”

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first Korean-born Catholic priest. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul, South Korea. He was canonized in 1984 with 102 other Korean martyrs.

Pope Francis’ words about the Korean saint were read aloud in St. Peter’s Basilica following Mass Aug. 21.

The pope said “even today, in the face of the many manifestations of evil that disfigure the beautiful face of man, created in the image and likeness of God, we need to rediscover the importance of the mission of every baptized person, who is called to be everywhere operator of peace and hope, willing, like the Good Samaritan, to bend over the wounds of those who are eager for love, help, or simply a fraternal gaze.”

“Good always prevails, because God’s love wins over hatred,” Pope Francis stated. He also expressed the hope that those working for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula “will continue with renewed commitment to be good peacemakers, encouraging everyone to a respectful and constructive dialogue for an ever brighter future.”

The Vatican Mass was celebrated by Korean Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, the new prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and attended by around 30 priests and 70 lay people.

In his homily, Archbishop You recalled the life of St. Andrew Kim, noting that he and other Korean Catholics “practiced what they believed, even if they lived in a society dominated by a hierarchical social system, and did their best to live the Gospel ideals of human dignity and equality among peoples.”

Calling attention to the ongoing suffering caused by COVID-19, You said it seemed “providential” that the 200th anniversary of Kim’s birth “is celebrated right in the middle of the pandemic.”

The coronavirus pandemic “unfortunately seems to have accentuated our tendency to selfishness and discrimination within society,” he said, pointing out that the example of the martyr St. Andrew Kim “might teach us the path with which we can deal with the current crisis.”

The archbishop also expressed the hope that a pope might someday be able to visit North Korea.

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