Cause for Beatification opened for 124 Korean martyrs

This week the Holy See approved the opening of the cause for beatification of Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, who were tortured and killed for their faith in 1791, when Christianity was being introduced in Korea.

According the Fides news agency, the announcement was made by the Korean Bishops Committee for Beatification and Canonization, which made public the null osta of the Holy See for the opening of the process.

The Committee has named a panel of experts in history that will serve in a consulting capacity.  The panel will be lead by Andrea Kim Jin-so, director of the Historical Research Center of Honam, Korea.

In 1791, Paul Yun Ji-Chung, a convert to Christianity and member of a Korean noble family, refused to bury his deceased mother according to the traditional rite of Confucianism, which resulted in an investigation by authorities and a persecution of many Christians, which came to be known as the Sin-hae persecution.

Paul Ji-Chung became the first Korean martyr from an upper class family, and many other nobles who joined him also were exiled or put to death.  The government declared Christianity to be “an evil cult” that destroyed human relationships and the traditional moral order.

The Catholic community in Korea survived underground until 1895, when freedom of religion was granted.  However this was only after the Church suffered through four great persecutions: Shinyu in 1801 (of which 103 martyrs were canonized in 1984 by the Holy Father); Gyhae in 1839 and Byung-In in 1866.  During this period Church documents estimated around 16,000 Christians were put to death.

Professor Domenico Youn Minku of the Catholic University of Suwon and Postulator of the cause for beatification of the first Korean martyrs, told Fides that “this is the only case in history, in Korea the Catholic Church was introduced spontaneously by Koreans themselves.  The faith was sought after by Korean writers who were familiar with the books on the faith written in Chinese by European missionaries.  The Catholic community in Korea, which resulted from the baptism of a Korean man in 1784, was quickly subject to cruel persecutions.  The faith has flourished nonetheless, and today Korea is one of the most dynamic faith communities in the world.

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