Pope holds up Korean mar­tyrs as mod­els for church

The Covington News - - WORLD -

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Fran­cis be­at­i­fied 124 Korean mar­tyrs on Satur­day, telling hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who turned out for his open-air Mass that their an­ces­tors’ will­ing­ness to die rather than re­nounce their faith two cen­turies ago was a model for Asian mis­sion­ar­ies to­day.

The streets lead­ing up to Seoul’s iconic Gwangh­wa­mun Gate were packed with Kore­ans hon­or­ing the lay Catholics who founded the church here in the 18th cen­tury. Korea’s church is unique in that it was founded not by for­eign mis­sion­ary priests — as oc­curred in most of the world — but by mem­bers of Korea’s own noble classes who learned of Chris­tian­ity by read­ing books about it.

These early Catholics were killed in the 18th and 19th cen­turies by the Joseon Dy­nasty, which tried to shut the Korean Penin­sula off from Western in­flu­ence.

Po­lice in Seoul de­clined to give an es­ti­mate of the crowd size, but the Vat­i­can said about 800,000 peo­ple had turned out. The num­ber was sig­nif­i­cant given that Catholics rep­re­sent only about 10 per­cent of South Korea’s 50 mil­lion peo­ple.

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