_ From the Editor:
_ Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2017
_ Message for the 13th Week for Catholic Education (Summary)
_ Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Summary)
_ Message for the 8th Sunday for Life (Summary)
_ Message for the 2018 Day for the Environment
_ News from the Catholic Church in Korea
_ The Lives of 124 BlessedMartyrs of Korea
From the Editor:
Response to Sects and New Religious Movements
The Catholic Church in Korea strives to become light and salt to society. However, a growing number of people in Korean society are expressing their disappointment and criticisms of some established religions. While many reject organized religions, their hunger for spirituality remains strong. As a consequence, a significant number of people are attracted to other spiritual practices as alternatives to existing religious traditions. The Catholic Church in Korea refers to such practices as Sects and New Religious Movements, included here are New Age Movements, Ki (also called Qi or Chi) energy excercises, and forms of mind practice. Since some of these practices may exert a harmful influence on people, including Catholics, prudent discernment is required.
New Age Movements view the modern world as being in crisis. In such a time of crisis, many New Age Movements believe that humans can become masters of their own lives by developing and exercising the great potential of the human mind. Furthermore, they often assert that humanity is capable of ascending to the level of divinity solely through his or her own individual efforts and powers. In this sense, some New Age Movements directly contradict Christian beliefs. It seems that many New Age Movements expand their influence through a variety of media, among which meditation books, music, and movies are considered to be most effective.
In addition, we should be careful in our dealings with health-related Ki energy exercises. In today's world some ancient Eastern spiritual traditions appear to be making a comeback under various guises: Kigong, Ki exercise, and hypogastric breathing. Such practices frequently distinguish their philosophy from religion by asserting that they are simply alternative methods of promoting health. However, serious problems may emerge when these so-called alternative therapies become perverted into pseudo-religious practices. Although one may initially undertake such practices simply for health benefits, the practitioner may, as time goes by, develop a kind of religious sentimentality towards them. In answer to these problems, the Catholic Church in Korea published a book informing the faithful of possible dangers associated with some Sects and New Religious Movements.
In fact, today, many faithful join such pseudo-spiritual movements simply out of curiosity or in order to improve their physical and mental health. It especially appeals to those who have failed to find meaning in their lives and a sense of belonging within the Church. Faced with such a serious state of affairs, the Catholic Church in Korea should constantly call to mind her mission to be light and salt to the world. The Church should also exert herself so as to help the faithful develop a sense of community and belonging within the Church. Further, it is necessary for the Church to respond to the faithfuls’ spiritual needs by developing various programmes which reflect and answer the current challenges and needs of society.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Executive Secretary of the CBCK
Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2017
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (President: Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong) published Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2017 on April 11, 2018.
On the basis of the compiled data collected from 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, 7 Catholic universities, and 167 religious institutes of men and women in Korea, the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2017 presents annual statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea as of December 31, 2017. These statistics will be helpful in better understanding the present situation of the Catholic Church in Korea and will provide a useful point of reference for pastoral ministries.
The following is a summary of the main statistical results:
According to the Statistics, as of December 31, 2017, the number of Catholics in Korea was 5,813,770, an increase of 1.3% (71,821) over the previous year. It amounted to 11.0% of the total population of Korea, 52,950,306 (51,778,544 residents based on resident registration; 1,171,762 foreigners). The total number of Catholics in Korea has slightly increased since 2005. Since 2009 especially, the number of Catholics in Korea has increased to over 10% and moves towards 11%.
By gender, the number of male faithful was 2,469,148 and that of female faithful was 3,334,622: respectively 42.5% and 57.5% of Catholics in Korea. The ratio of male faithful was slightly higher than that of female faithful in the 0-29 years age bracket, but the percentage of female faithful was higher from 30 years of age onwards.
By age group, the percentage of faithful aged 55-59 accounted for 9.9% of the total, faithful aged 45-49 represented 8.9%, and those aged 50-54 made up 8.7%. The number of teenage faithful accounted for 381,234, or 6.6% of the total number of Catholics in Korea. The number of people over 65 years of age accounted for 1,070,262 or 18.4% of the total, this marked an increase over the 17.4% of the previous year.
Of the 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, the Archdiocese of Seoul was the most populous with the number of faithful standing at 1,527,951 or 26.3% of the total number of Catholics in Korea. The Archdiocese of Seoul was followed by the Diocese of Suwon (900,746 or 15.5%), the Diocese of Incheon (510,923 or 8.8%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (503,551 or 8.7%), the Diocese of Busan (454,890 or 7.8%), the Archdiocese of Gwangju (362,923 or 6.2%), the Diocese of Daejeon (324,998 or 5.6%), and the Diocese of Uijeongbu (304,048 or 5.2%). Adding up the number of faithful in Seoul and surrounding urban areas (Suwon, Uijeongbu, and Incheon) the Catholic population amounts to 3,243,668 or 55.8% of Catholics in Korea.
Dioceses showing an increase in numbers are: the Diocese of Daejeon and the Diocese of Uijeongbu were ahead of others with an increase of 2.2%, followed by the Diocese of Cheju (1.9%), the Diocese of Suwon (1.8%), the Diocese of Chunchon (1.5%), and the Diocese of Incheon (1.4%).
In terms of the percentage of the Catholic population in comparison with the local population, the Archdiocese of Seoul was ahead of others with a rate of 15.0%, followed by the Diocese of Cheongju (11.8%), the Dioceses of Cheju and Incheon (11.6%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (11.1%), and the Archdiocese of Gwangju (11.0%). The number of parishes in 2017 was 1,734, an increase of 15, and the number of secondary stations was 737, a decrease of 4 from the previous year.
The Statistics also indicate that the number of clergy in Korea in 2017 amounted to 5,360 in total; this was made-up of 5,318 priests and 42 bishops, including 2 Cardinals. There were 5,160 Korean priests and 158 foreign missionary priests, showing an increase of 3.2% and a decrease of 3.7% respectively when compared with the previous year. Among these, 4,386 were diocesan priests, 781 religious priests, and 151 missionary priests. The number of seminarians was 1,319, a decrease of 7.2% from the previous year. There were 1,593 men religious, excluding novices, while there were 10,143 women religious. The number of novices in total was 394.
According to the Statistics, the number of newly baptized in 2017 was 96,794. This indicates a decrease of 12.9% (14,345 baptisms) from the previous year. By gender, there were 51,396 newly baptized men and 45,398 women; when compared to the previous year, there was a decrease in male baptisms of 15.7% (9,541 in number) and a decrease of 9.6% (4,804 in number) in female baptisms. The number of baptized children amounted to 21,530 or 22.2% of the total number of baptisms, adult baptisms amounted to 69,754 or 72.1% (here, the term ‘children’ refers to infants and intellectually disabled persons who are unable to receive catechesis).
The number of celebrations of the Sacrament of Matrimony amounted to 15,842 in 2017, indicating a decrease of 8.6% from the previous year. Of this number, 9,842 cases were matrimonial dispensation, and 32 were cases of mixed marriages.
The average number of Sunday Mass attendees was 1,130,599, 19.4% of the total Catholic population of Korea. The number of the faithful who received First Communion was 19,904. The number of the faithful who celebrated the Sacrament of Confession was 4,462,566, and the number of those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation was 46,880.
Message for the 13th Week for Catholic Education (Summary)
Respect for Life Is the Core of Catholic Education!
“Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sir 15,17).
1. Schools as communities of respect for life
Although there is more awareness of human rights and the protection of life than ever before, there are still many challenges to be resolved regarding issues of life. It is true that there is a lack of sympathy and a shortage of efforts when it comes to protecting the right to life and the human rights of the socially disadvantaged. As seen during the ‘One Million Signatures Campaign against the Abolition of the Anti-abortion Law’, organized by the Church in Korea, anti-life laws form a powerful consensus in our society. Schools cannot remain free from the influences of such an atmosphere, because they are a major element within the structure of society. The primary duty of school education is to protect and promote the right to life and the human rights of vulnerable and immature children, and young people. Nonetheless, students are still exposed to forms of anti-life culture such as prejudice, hatred, discrimination and competition; bullying and sexual abuse exist even in educational settings.
2. Responsibility-centered education focused on respect for life
From elementary school to high school, most of today’s schools provide education on sexuality, health and drug related issues as compulsory subjects. However, such health education is insufficient both from quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Often these shortcomings are exacerbated because these topics are less taught in higher grades (cf. Policy Materials for Promoting Students’ Heath, 2017, pp.14-15). There is a fundamental problem with the way sex education is taught. Therefore, I would, here, like to suggest what form proper sex education in schools might take, taking into consideration the arguments ‘for and against the abolition of the Anti-abortion Law’ inside and outside the Church.
Firstly, it seems that many of the negative attitudes towards sexuality found among children and young people have developed as a result of the existing sex education approach, which concentrates on preventive dimensions. A proper sex education program should help students to fully recognize the beauty, sacredness and dignity of human sexuality. And this should be done prior to alerting students to the dangers of sexual instrumentalization, commercialization, and sexual violence. Since human sexuality is a gift from the loving and good God, the Lord of life, we should teach people responsibility towards it and respect for it.
Secondly, sex education in schools should be carried out not from the restrictive perspective of prevention, but by positively emphasizing responsibility. Currently sex education is often misunderstood as being simply education in forms of contraceptive, avoiding sexual abuse, and other purely physical dimensions. It seems that sex education can lead students to fear pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting; and, as a result, they often opt for contraceptive methods. Instead, a fitting sex education should be directed towards the promotion of responsibility. In addition, it is necessary to encourage unmarried single parents to take responsibility not only for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, but also to respect the laws relating to parental responsibilities.
3. Practice of respect for life education in schools
The Committee on Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea ardently looks forward to spreading the Gospel of Jesus throughout schools: “I came so that the sheep might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10,10). In this regard, we ask school communities to respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life (cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, n.5). We also urge those who are involved in education to put into practice the following suggestions:
1. Let us make schools into communities of respect for life.
2. Let us make curricula which help students to practice respect for life.
3. Let us emphasize the positive aspects of sexuality, such as the beauty and sacredness of human sexuality.
4. Let us emphasize, through proper sex education, equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women with regard to pregnancy, childbirth and parenting; especially men’s responsibility for protecting children and mothers during maternity.
May God bless all of you abundantly.
May 21-27, 2018
Week for Catholic Education
Coadjutor Bishop of Cheju
President CBCK Committee on Education
Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Summary)
Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees
The Holy Father said that, at every stage of the migratory experience –from the departure through the journey, and up to the arrival and return of every migrant– communities have the duty “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.” As members of the Catholic community we are all called to respond to migrants and refugees with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight.
To begin with, welcoming means, above all, offering wider options for migrants and refugees to safely and legally enter destination countries. This calls for a concrete commitment to broaden and simplify the process of granting both humanitarian and family reunification visas. The principle of the centrality of the human person is necessary for the implementation of this form of welcoming. We need a social structure that can guarantee respect for every individual’s human dignity and right to safety. A migrant priest who is in charge of migrant ministry tells us: “When you meet migrants on your way, please greet them with a big smile, not averting your eyes from them.” Indeed, a warm smile and simple greeting towards migrants can be a source of encouragement for them who have travelled so far.
Protecting is to defend the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees, independent of their legal status. Migrants and refugees should be guaranteed adequate consular assistance, the right to personally retain their identity documents at all times, fair access to justice, the possibility of opening a personal bank account, and a minimum level of support sufficient to live on. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a universal legal basis for the protection of underage migrants. They must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status, and they must be guaranteed regular access to primary and secondary education. Equally, when they come of age they must be guaranteed the right to remain and enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies. The universal right to having a nationality should also be recognised and duly certified for all children at birth.
Currently in Korea, there are about 150,000 child immigrants and it has been decreed that they be granted access to elementary, middle and high school without verification of their legal residency status. However, their admission to school is at the discretion of the principal of each school. For this reason, even if they are refused admission, no action can be taken. Also, in accordance with the internal guidelines of the Ministry of Justice, a grace period to remain is granted to undocumented immigrant children until they complete their high school education. Nevertheless, every year over 100 undocumented immigrant children are forced to leave the country or are detained. Among them, are children who were born in Korea, who have grown-up over a long period in Korea, and who identify themselves as Korean. In addition, because children of undocumented refugees in Korea are unable to register their birth, their rights to claim Korean nationality and social security are as a result violated.
In the current Korean visa system for foreigners there are no measures to secure stable residency status for female immigrants who may be vulnerable to violent crimes, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. If an undocumented migrant woman suffers violence, she may well be reluctant to report such violence for fear of deportation. It is necessary to ensure that migrant female workers are provided with safe, sanitary, private and secure spaces for accommodation. In places employing female migrant workers, training in prevention of sexual violence should be regularly conducted and monitored. If any sexual harrassment in the workplace is reported, reasonable measures should be taken in response: such as employee relocation.
Promoting essentially means a determined effort to ensure that all migrants and refugees – as well as the communities which welcome them – are empowered to achieve their potential as human beings. Since “work, by its nature, is meant to unite peoples”, the Pope encourages a determined effort to promote the inclusion, both socially and professionally, of migrants and refugees. Such inclusion ought to guarantee all the possibility of employment, language instruction, participatory citizenship, and access to sufficient information in their mother tongue.
Migrant workers engaged in the agricultural and livestock industries are likely to face demanding circumstance, often having to work in harsh conditions as a result of geographical isolation and long working hours. In our country, migrant workers receive lower wages than their Korean counterparts and frequently lodging expenses are deducted from their wages. In fact, many migrants receive less than the minimum wage and are not guaranteed sufficient rest time or paid-holidays. Because of these conditions, the dropout rate among migrant workers is high. As a consequence, many farm owners take measures such as seizing ID cards and passports in order to prevent workers from leaving without notice and to strengthen their control over them.
The final verb – integrating – concerns the opportunities for intercultural enrichment brought about by the presence of migrants and refugees. Integration is not “an assimilation that leads migrants to suppress or to forget their own cultural identity.” Rather, contact with others leads to discovering their ‘secret’ worth and contributes to an openness that facilitates us to come to know each other better. This process can be accelerated by granting citizenship without the burden of financial or linguistic requirements; it can also be helped by offering to migrants, through the enactment of special legislation, the possibility to claim a prolonged period of residency in the country of arrival.
Concern for women’s rights should be at the center of any system of support for migrant women. Such support should systematically view women and their rights as a priority. The support of migrant women demands an integral approach which moves beyond the narrow framework of family policies.
To the maternal intercession of the Holy Mother of God we entrust the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees, and the aspirations of the communities that welcome them.
+John Baptist Jung Shin-chul
Bishop of Incheon
Bishop of Wonju
for the Pastoral Care of Migrants
& Foreign Residents Living in Korea
Message for the 8th Sunday for Life (Summary)
I pray that the Gospel of life may abundantly illuminate your families and your daily lives. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The Encyclical emphasizes the obligation of married couples to generate life. It also highlights the impotance of human life, elevates the calling to become parents, and emphasizes our responsibility to welcome life. In this way, I hope that Christian couples take a lead in welcoming new life and spreading the Gospel of life.
In reality, however, there are people who claim that women have the right to end unwanted pregnancies. Consequently, “from the first moments of their lives, many children are rejected, there are those who dare to say … it was a mistake to bring these children into the world. This is shameful!” (Amoris Laetitia, n.166).
Life should be respected to the last moment, especially from the very moment of conception. “The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just born than in the mature person” (the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, n.12). As the Church teaches, humanity should share responsibility to protect human life from the moment of conception, while nations have an obligation to prohibit abortion and protect life (cf. Humanae Vitae, n.14). The primacy of a fetus’ life, above all other worldy concerns, should be observed because only God is the master of life (cf. Evangelium Vitae, n.55).
It is necessary to mention the ongoing petition for ‘the abolition of the current anti-abortion law and the legalization and introduction of Mifegyne, an early pregnancy termination medication.’ Within society there are claims that birth control measures and an abortion bill should be introduced into our nation. However, “how can we issue solemn declarations on human rights and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?” (Amoris Laetitia, n.166).
There are many women around us who have had abortions. We are well aware of the pressures women endure before making such a difficult decision both on practical and psychological levels. In our society, many, including single parents, are forced to bear the scars of the experience alone. Now, the church community wishes to share their sufferings.
Christians know that every member of humanity is a beloved child of God called from the very beginning of life. They believe in the precious value of life, and witness to this belief in the world. Specifically, marriage and family provides a starting point for the practice of caring for life; it is a special place where we may witness to and proclaim faith in ‘life.’ For all Christians it is a crucial mission to proclaim the Gospel by making one’s family a place where new life is welcomed: “they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10,10).
● Work hard to make marriages and families welcoming places for life, and become actively involved in the movement to create a culture of life.
● Provide sincere care for women who have had an abortion and for single parents.
● Communicate the value of life and spread the Gospel of Life to people whom we meet in our daily lives and in our places of work.
May 6, 2018
Bishop of Suwon
President CBCK Committee for Bioethics
Message for the 2018 Day for the Environment
What Kind of World Would You Pass on to the Next Generation?
To construct a safe and sustainable society is a key pledge of President Moon Jae-in, who was inaugurated in May 2017. This means that in future the nation’s energy policy, which was originally established and implemented mainly for economic efficiency and supply of a stable power network, will focus more on environmental performance and safety. The 8th Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand (2017-2031), which was released at the end of 2017, aims at reducing both nuclear and coal-fired power generation while also expanding renewable energy. Accordingly, during this period, the following projects will be carried out: 11 nuclear power plants and 7 coal-fired power plants will be shut down; construction plans for 6 new nuclear power plants will be reassessed; 6 coal-fired power plants will be converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants; the ratio of renewable energy will be increased by 20%; electricity supply and demand will be proactively managed. To reduce the fine dust level, coal-fired power plants that are over 30 years old will be shut down this spring, between March and June. There are, however, still many problems remaining with regard to the construction of 7 new coal-fired power plants and the normalization of inadequate electricity prices. On the whole, however, it can be considered a plan that reflects the government’s determined efforts to put more emphasis on issues related to the environment and safety. Such political efforts and commitments towards energy transition should also be expressed in the ‘3rd Basic Energy Plan (2019-2040)’ to be drawn up this year.
Nuclear and coal powered generation production methods both potentially threaten human lives. They are neither safe nor sustainable. The expansion of renewable energy to replace nuclear and coal energy is an indispensable option for human survival. However, such energy transition for the sake of a safe and sustainable society cannot be achieved by technology and economic power alone. Renewable energy expansion must be done in an ethical and ecological way. Natural energy, such as sun and wind, if it is approached only with the logic of capitalism and profit, can be perverted and made to function as a type of energy of death. There are already signs of speculation in the solar power business, and forest ecosystems have already been seriously damaged by the indiscriminate construction of solar power plants. The logic of capitalism, which aims to use renewable energy only as a means of profit-making while ignoring the sacrifice of local residents and damaging the natural ecosystem, should be rejected. We must always listen to “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, n.49).
The ethical and ecological energy transition, of which we speak, should begin with a deep and honest examination of our lifestyles. Unwittingly, we may already have fallen into a consumerist lifestyle, which is focused on possessions and consumption. Therefore we should keep in mind that “a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms” (Ibid., n.230). This is why any form of energy transition must be accompanied by a change of lifestyle. We need to change the life of consumption, which is cantered around abundance and convenience, into a simple and modest lifestyle. When I voluntarily limit ‘myself’, my interest in ‘you’ increases, and a “culture of care” (Ibid., n.231) begins to spread. If there is no fundamental change in our lives, we will once again adopt the logic of capitalism by concentrating on convenience and abundance. When we willingly accept “the conviction that less is more” (Ibid., n.222) through ecological repentance, it is possible to achieve an energy transition which allows us to live in harmony with others and nature. A life of frugality and moderation may lead to energy saving, which, in turn, brings about real energy transition.
These days, the Korean Peninsula is filled with a renewed hope for peace. For all of us, it is urgent to bring to an end the War on the Korean Peninsula. However, “peace is not merely the absence of war.”: true peace is “an enterprise of justice.” And it “results from that order structured into human society by its divine Founder” (Gaudium et Spes, n.78). Existing modes of energy production and many of their uses have shattered peace by destroying people’s lives and the order of the natural ecosystem. Such production methods have undermined the order of creation that contains God’s will for the world. However, any form of energy transition should contribute to recovering the order of creation and so realizing peace. In this way, the world can be shaped according to God’s will. Therefore, to achieve energy transition in an ethical and ecological manner is a prophetic vocation for our time. A vocation endeavors to discern, proclaim, and practice God’s will. Let us live in the knowledge that all Christians are called to this prophetic vocation. Together let us realize peace in the world and the world of peace by preserving the order of creation through energy transition.
June 5, 2018
World Environment Day
Bishop of Cheju
President CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment
News from the Catholic Church in Korea
Praying for the Success of the Inter-Korean Summit (Summary)
“Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Mt 6,10)
The Inter-Korean Summit scheduled for April 27, 2018 will be followed by a series of meetings between the various countries involved in the division of the Korean Peninsula: including North Korea-United States summit. There are growing expectations that a new era of peace will dawn on this land, following our sixty-five years of confrontation and conflict.
Thinking back over the past year, the situation on the Korean Peninsula was one of impenetrable darkness, where vision was impossible. The possibility of war was escalated by heated arguments between the United States of America and North Korea. As a consequence we worried greatly about the situation. However, availing of an opportunity, which arose out of the successful Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, a dialogue for peace and reconciliation was dramatically resumed in a time of extreme confrontation. This development was like a miracle which would have been unimaginable even six months before. There are many reasons why this dramatic change happened, but I think that the first and foremost reason was the sincere prayers of the faithful. God answered our prayers with this valuable opportunity.
At the moment of deepest crisis, when inter-Korean relationships were at a low point, the Church in Korea felt an urgent need of the Lord’s help and guidance, and so emphasized, more than anything, the importance of prayers for peace. Pope Francis also called for all the local Churches in the world to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. As a result, every evening at 9 o’clock, the Catholic Church in Korea united for a moment so as to pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory be. Through these prayers, something miraculous began to happen in this land with God’s assistance, for whom nothing is impossible (cf. Lk 1,37).
We need to continue to fervently pray for a everlasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
April 13, 2018
President CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People
Regarding the Joint Panmunjeom Declaration
by the Leaders of South and North Korea (Summary)
The third Inter-Korean Summit ended successfully; at it the leaders of South and North Korea agreed to cooperate toward the drawing up of a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. This historically momentous meeting took place at Panmunjeom, a place that symbolizes national division. For the first time in sixty-five years the two leaders, holding hands, crossed the Military Demarcation Line, walking back and forth. Afterwards, they jointly issued the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” based on mutual respect and cooperation for the future.
The Catholic Church in Korea, since 1965, has been praying for a true and permanent peace in this land and for the reconciliation and unity of the Korean people through its celebration of the “Day of Prayer for the Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People” on June 25 every year. She, through the CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, has provided non-governmental interchange and support for the reconciliation and unity of South and North Korea. We give thanks to the Lord who, in response to our heartfelt prayers and work for peace, helped bring about a successful Inter-Korean Summit. Hence, this current success, we hope and pray, may serve as a driving force for our pastoral ministry in the fields of the national reunification and humanitarian exchanges.
To the great joy for all, the Korean people have made a great step toward peace, thanks to the support of the people and the commitments of the leaders of the two Koreas. We firmly believe that God may grant us the gift of peace on the Korean Peninsula. We also hope that today’s Joint Declaration by South and North Korea, and the prospective summit meeting between North Korea and the United States will bear much fruit in our efforts to transform the Korean Peninsula into a land of hope. Ultimately this may make a significant contribution to the establishment of peace not only in Asia, but also around the world.
April 27, 2018
Archbishop of Gwangju President of the CBCK
The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
Francis Yi Bo-hyeon (1773-1800)
Francis Yi Bo-hyeon was born in Hwangmosil, Deoksan, Chungcheong-do (now, Hoeum-ri, Godeok-myeon, Yesan-gun, Chungnam) into a family of common class. His father died when he was young, and Francis was reputed to have been stubborn and reckless in his youth and adolescence.
When he was twenty years old, Francis Yi studied the catechism under Thomas Hwang Sim, who was living near his hometown and had accepted the Catholic faith. Later, Thomas Hwang Sim became a secret envoy of the Church and traveled to Beijing. He also married Francis Yi’s sister.
After discovering the truth, Francis Yi corrected his reckless behavior. And although he did not want to, he married so as to obey his mother's wish. In order to freely practice his religion, he moved, with Thomas Hwang, to Yeonsan, Chungcheong-do. In 1795 he invited Father James Zhou Wen-mo to his house and received the sacraments from him.
As he came to understand Catholic teaching in a deeper way, Francis Yi’s faith in God increased day by day; sometimes he went to the mountain to pray alone and practice mortification for his sins.
In 1797, when many Catholics were arrested during the Jeongsa Persecution, Francis Yi, who was never afraid of persecution, tried to encourage his family and fellow believers to be faithful to their religion. Every day he reminded them of the Passion of Jesus and encouraged them “to profess their faith in God with courage, and not to miss the opportunity of going to Heaven.”
One or two years after the Persecution, Francis Yi had a premonition concerning the onset of a new danger. He invited all the village people and offered them food and wine, saying, “This is my last feast.” Indeed two days after that, the police came to Yeonsan to arrest him. They took him to the magistrate.
The magistrate of Yeonsan, having confirmed that Francis was a Catholic, tried to make him betray God and confess the whereabouts of other Catholics and Church books. However, Francis Yi refused to become an apostate. He replied, “I cannot give books on God, who is the Great King of the universe, into the hands of the chief official.” The chief official was very angry with him and ordered that he be severely beaten and put in prison.
Later, on the order of the governor of Chungcheong, Francis Yi was taken to the chief commander of Haemi, who ruled the region around Francis’ hometown, Deoksan. During this period, he was again punished many times in an effort to force him to betray his religion. But it was in vain. He replied to the interrogator as follows:
“The origin of human beings is the Lord who created them at the beginning of the world. So it is impossible for me not to worship Him.”
Francis Yi was punished for more than half a day, but he stood firm. In prison, he kept praying peacefully and offered encouragement to the other Catholic prisoners. The chief commander of Haemi consulted with the governor about Francis Yi. And as a result, the governor sent an order to "beat him to death if he does not confess all". Consequently, he went through interrogation and torture one more time, after which the chief commander presented him with his sentence of the death penalty in writing. He signed it with serenity.
The following morning, Francis Yi was taken to the market place and severely beaten. While he was still alive the persecutors knocked him to the ground and beat his genitals until he died. In this way Francis Yi died a martyr. It was on January 9, 1800 (December 15, 1799 by the Lunar calendar). At the time of his death Francis Yi was twenty-seven years old.
A few days later when some of the faithful came to get his body, they found Francis Yi’s face bathed in a mysterious peacefulness, with a smile despite the cruel punishment he had endured. It is said that several people who witnessed this sight became Catholics.