- Message for the 20th Farmers' Sunday
- 2015 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK
- Message for the 48th Military Mission Sunday
- Message for the Month of Mission 2015
- News from the Church in Korea
- The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
From the Editor:
The New Mission of the Catholic Church in Korea for Korean Society
Korean society has gone through many changes and shows many symptoms manifesting continual loss of its traditional values and identity in the midst of rapid economic growth over the past few decades. At the same time, Koreans are forced to be bereft of their true human nature because the society itself suffers from the loss of humanity. Especially, the recent economic crisis has driven many people into despair and brought about the loss of meaning in their lives.
On the one hand, the Catholic Church in Korea has contributed to the good of Korean people and the development of Korean society, being the light of the world in the tough days of darkness. However, nowadays she has to face many challenges even within the Church. The challenges include the trend of the so-called "mega-church", anonymity of the faithful, immaturity of faith, the increasing number of the marginalized or non-practicing faithful, and decreasing Mass attendance.
To make matters worse, new religious movements including pseudo or "alternative" sects have increasingly prevailed, exerting their influence in our society. Those who are disappointed with the traditional religions show a spontaneous tendency to seek new cultural forms of spiritual life, which seem to be the promising substitutes for traditional religious practices and values.
On top of that, the so-called "alternative religions" mushroom in Korean society nowadays, taking advantage of the trend of the multitude who are more interested in secularism, leisure, and personal well-being. The alternative religions belong to new spiritual movements and allegedly claim to be literally the "alternative" ways, even partially, to traditional religions. In fact, there are faithful in no small measure who experience the discrepancy between their faith and everyday life and, therefore, seek new ways of spiritual life.
Today, Korean society is going through a very difficult time, as mutual distrust and hopelessness increasingly prevail, not to mention economic difficulties. Loss of values in life is aggravated with skepticism and cynicism. In addition to that, it cannot be denied that religions, especially traditional religions, have increasingly become the target of fierce criticism.
Therefore, the Catholic Church in Korea must renew herself with a new sense of mission for the better future of Korean society. She must sincerely mull over the way of active evangelization of Korean people. In other words, the Church must find a way to go out from her present situation and to help those who already have received the Gospel make their way to salvation through the practice of evangelical life. In this regard, she must make up her mind and carry out her resolution. Through her sincere efforts for such a good cause, she can be truly with Korean people in a more practical way.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Executive Secretary of the CBCK
Message for the 20th Farmers' Sunday (Summary)
Revival of the Agriculture and Rural Areas through Solidarity and Fraternity
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the occasion of the 20th Farmers' Sunday, I pray that God's abundant blessing may be with those who commit themselves to the preservation of the divine order of creation and the realization of urban-rural communion.
1. Since the start of "Save Our Rural Community" movement in 1994, the Catholic Church in Korea has exerted her efforts for the promotion and practice of the communal spirituality in urban and rural areas with "one heart and mind" (cf. Acts 4,32). In such spirituality, we can cherish not only the labor of farmers who are God's faithful co-workers of creation, but also the significance of agriculture and rural areas. Both the Church and many people of good will including farmers are exerting themselves to help those in rural areas in many ways.
However, the reality of agriculture and rural areas is getting worse nowadays. The agricultural market will be fully opened to foreign rice as the 20-year moratorium on rice import ends as of this year. The Korean government concluded the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the People's Republic of China last year, in addition to the existing ones with the USA and the EU respectively. The situation of agriculture and rural areas is getting worse because of the continually declining price of agricultural products, the frequent natural disasters, and the incessant outbreak of livestock diseases, along with the full opening of the agricultural market. The problem is that such situations seem likely to be more prevalent in the foreseeable future. Notwithstanding the continual uncertainty of the global economy, neo-liberalism gathers strength through the "Doha Development Agenda" under the WTO umbrella as well as bilateral or multilateral FTA. Our government is at the forefront of this trend. Since the 1990s, it has carried out a full-scale policy in favor of agricultural restructuring as well as market-opening to foreign agricultural products. As a result, we are now facing innumerable problems, including dwindling rural population, lack of future farmers, decreasing rural incomes, increasing income disparity between rural and urban areas, deepening dependence on foreign agricultural products, uncontrolled influx of the GMOs, and worsening environmental pollution.
The Church Tries to Listen to the Difficulties of Farmers, Agriculture, and Rural Areas.
2. The Church urges the faithful to realize that "the globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity" (Francis, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2015), putting emphasis on "a globalization without marginalization" (John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 1998) and "a globalization that is focused upon the true good of mankind" (Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2006) to overcome the social marginalization, resulting from globalization. It is quite natural for us to join hands with the farmers who are in the dire situation of naked survival because of globalization. Focusing on the problems of food and natural resources as well as climate change, the United Nations will observe "the International Year of Pulses" in 2016, following "the International Year of Family Farming" in 2014 and "the International Year of Soils" in 2015. Choosing themes on food and agriculture for three years in a row, the UN has drawn world-wide attention to putting emphasis on global efforts for the eradication of hunger and poverty, preservation of biodiversity and environment, and sustainable development of rural areas.
We Must Practice Solidarity, Action, and Prayer.
3. We must make great efforts for farmers, agriculture, and rural areas. The government must set a legal standard for proper food self-sufficiency of each agricultural product, reestablishing the basis of agriculture, including the preservation of necessary farm lands, the promotion of the public concept of farm lands, and the securing of farm laborers. Farmers must be able to establish local communities around natural cycles and mutual enrichment. In spite of the global economic crisis, many successful cases of cooperative associations in Spain, Canada, and Italy, which have promoted stable employment and economic development, manifest the potential for communal spirit in the Catholic Church. We as consumers must actively participate in the "Save our Rural Community" movement, hand in hand with farmers to promote the stable production and supply of safe food. We can establish a "Life Community for Our Agriculture" to facilitate a relationship between urban citizens and agricultural communities, as well as human exchange through initiatives such as "experiencing rural life", "helping hands for farmers", and "direct sales stalls for local agricultural products." All these activities are meant to be concrete ways of practicing "solidarity and fraternity" and a "preferential choice for life" for us and our descendants to live (cf. Dt 30,19). Therefore, we must be in solidarity with farmers, who cultivate earth to preserve life according to the divine will.
On the occasion of this Farmers' Sunday, I would like to thank farmers once again for their efforts, remembering the fact that "the hardworking farmer ought to have the first share of the crop" (2Tim 2,6). I pray that our rural areas may revive, so that they truly become a world which God "finds very good" (cf. Gn 1,31)
July 19, 2015
+ Lazzaro You Heung-sik
Bishop of Daejeon
CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace
2015 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) held its 2015 Autumn General Assembly at the Conference Hall of the Catholic Conference of Korea (CCK) from October 12 to 15, 2015 and made the following decisions:
1. The bishops approved unanimously the publication of the Brief Explanation on Catechism for the Faithful I: Mass.
2. The bishops decided that the CBCK will submit the National Calendar and Propers for the Dioceses of Korea along with the proper liturgical texts of Korea to the Apostolic See for its confirmation.
3. The bishops decided to approve the Korean version of Ordo Dedicationis Ecclesiae et Altaris and to send it to the Apostolic See for its confirmation.
4. The bishops approved Religious as the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. According to this guideline the religious who already have been instituted as extraordinary ministers can distribute Holy Communion as before, even when they are assigned to another diocese.
5. The bishops decided to use The New Catholic Hymnal for a period of three years ad experimentum.
6. The bishops approved the publication of Rise Up in Splendor, Korean Hymnal for Military, for tentative use.
7. The bishops approved the use of the revised forms for pastoral documents including four renewed forms: Notice of the First Communion; Notice of Complete Rite; Index Card for the Formation of Catechumens; Index Card for the Counseling of Catechumens (for priests' use).
8. The bishops decided that the regulations on the sabbatical year as well as personnel management in regard to the participation in the programs for priests during their sabbatical year at the CBCK Emmaus Center will be left to the discretion of each diocesan bishop and that the diocesan bishops will cover all the expenses including fees and allowance for the participating priests.
9. The bishops agreed that the Most Rev. Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, O.F.M., Moderator in charge of Health Pastoral Care, will establish "the Association of the Catholic Hospital Chaplains in Korea" (tentative name), composed of representatives of diocesan hospital chaplains and members of the Catholic Health Association of Korea, for the intensive formation of hospital chaplains.
10. The bishops decided to spend KRW 40,000,000 a year for the financial support for "Blessed Father James Zhou Wen-mo Retreat Center" from the year of 2016.
11. The bishops agreed that the Archdiocese of Seoul will be in charge of the 2019 WYD when it is to be held in Seoul and that each diocese will make its own decision on the accommodation and logistics of participants for "Days in the Dioceses", preceding the main celebrations of the WYD.
12. The bishops agreed to send a priest, or a member of a religious institute experienced in the mass media to the Vatican, who will be in charge of the management of the Vatican Radio web-site in Korean.
13. The bishops listened to a report on the draft plan for providing each diocese with information and pastoral resources in regard to the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, prepared by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea.
Message for the 20th Farmers' Sunday (Summary)
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On the occasion of the 48th Military Mission Sunday, I would like to share a sign of peace with you all, together with the military chaplains who commit themselves to the evangelization of the military. I also would like to express my sincere appreciation for your prayers and support for soldiers and the Military Ordinariate in Korea.
The 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Korea
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule. Looking back upon those years, we can see that we had to suffer from the national division of North and South Korea and even the Korean War, which inflicted tremendous human and material damage on Korean people. Furthermore, many Korean people must feel more pain as their families have lived separately in North and South Korea since the end of the war. However, Korea has enjoyed the blessing of great development and change, surmounting all dangers and difficulties, great and small.
The Korean War destroyed the industrial infrastructure of our nation and the entire land fell into ruin. Many Koreans for a long time had to suffer from the so-called "barley hump," a seasonal famine before the harvest of barley usually around the month of May. Luckily few people today understand its real impact. According to recent statistics, it is reported that the gross domestic product (GDP) of Korea has shown an increase of 31,000,000% over 1945. In fact, Korea ranked as the 13th richest country in the world as of 2014. Indeed, economic growth is very important, as the saddest aspect of poverty is not having enough food to eat. Korean people, it seems to me, do not really worry about food and clothes any more. Korea is the first country in the world to become a donor country, having passed through dependence on foreign aid. In addition, Korea is said to be the only country that has accomplished a successful reforestation. Such development was able to be achieved, first of all, through the diligence and vitality of all Korean people, including politicians, businessmen, scientists, and technicians.
We also see that the Catholic Church in Korea has borne abundant fruit from evangelization in the past 70 years, something as important as economic development especially for us as Catholics. The number of Catholics in Korea has shown an increase of 2,600% over the year of 1945, crossing the mark of five million. Catholics account for about 10% of the total population in Korea. When you count in Protestants, about three out of every ten Koreans are Christians. We should thank God for this. We also thank priests, religious, and lay persons, all who have committed themselves to the evangelization of Korea. The number of newly baptized grows larger, although non-practicing faithful are still on the increase. I would like to thank God for the increasing number of the baptized. However, I cannot but ask, "What about the spirituality of priests, religious, and lay persons?" Let us start again the life of conversion for our spiritual renewal, reflecting sincerely on the admonition of Jesus: "many who are first will be last, and the last will be first" (Mt 19,30).
We have to be especially thankful to soldiers who have committed themselves to defending our nation for the past 70 years in full awareness of the fact that we cannot enjoy liberal democracy without the guarantee of national security. During the Korean War, many soldiers dedicated themselves to the defence of our country.
Peace: Gift of God, Responsibility of Human Beings
At the first synod of the Military Ordinate of Italy, it was proclaimed that soldiers are those who consider peace as the preferential good for mankind and that the Military Ordinate commits itself in an evangelical way to the military as a community of people who try to dedicate themselves to the realization of 'true happiness' with an ardent desire for peace. For the achievement of such a goal, each soldier must be provided with opportunities for personality formation and moral education in search of justice and peace. In this regard, military chaplains fulfill their duty for evangelization of the military as well as the personality formation of soldiers, including non-Christian ones.
We need Christian soldiers who can help other soldiers in the military fulfill their duties faithfully as the servants of justice and peace. In other words, we need soldiers who are hungry for justice and practice their sacred mission to become peacemakers of the world. That is why military ordinates carry out their missionary work for the soldiers to help them receive the spirit of the divine Word in their respective lives.
Indeed, the rapidly changing international situation and some accidents in and around the military have stirred up some mistrust among people, and this affects soldiers' morale and conviction. Nevertheless, now is the time to trust and support the military all the more in the spirit of fraternity. I would like to invite all of you to pray for our soldiers, so that they can fulfill their proper duties as the servants of peace. I pray that all soldiers may make their way toward hope, overcoming anxieties, and that military chaplains may fulfill their duties in the forefront of evangelization.
I pray that the divine peace may be with you and your families in abundance.
October 4, 2015
+ Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il
Bishop of Military Ordinate
Message for the Month of Mission 2015 (Summary)
Be Merciful, Just as Your Father Is Merciful (Lk 6,36)
Dear brothers and sisters,
1. On the occasion of the Month of Mission, we should renew our missionary vocation as Catholics. Proclaiming the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis issued Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction of the Holy Year, on April 11, 2015. The Jubilee year will open on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and close on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.
Living this Jubilee Year all around the world, we, as believers, should do our best to fulfill what Pope Francis asked of us in his Bull, contemplating the face of our merciful Jesus Christ. In this regard, it is very important for each of us to realize that God has infinite forgiveness and mercy on each one of us. Then, embracing them deeply in our hearts, we can treat others with the same eyes of generosity and mercy. It will enable us to accompany them on their way to His mercy.
This teaching is reflected exactly in the context and structure of Misericordiae Vultus. When we carefully read the chapter 18 of the Gospel according to Matthew in deep contemplation, we will come to realize the profound mercy of God as well as His forgiveness bestowed upon us.
2. However, if we do not recognize the fact that God's forgiveness and mercy are bestowed upon us in abundance, we may have to identify ourselves with the ruthless servant in the parable of Matthew 18,23-25.
In this parable, a servant who owed his master a huge debt fell down, did him homage, and asked his patience, saying that he would pay him back in full. Moved with compassion, the master let him go and forgave him the debt. When that servant had left, he found and seized one of his fellow servants, who owed him a much smaller amount and he started to choke him, demanding that he pay back his debt. His fellow servant begged his patience but he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. As his fellow servants were deeply disturbed, they went to their master and reported the whole affair. Upon summoning him, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. This parable concluded with the words of the Lord, "So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart" (cf. Mt 18,23-35).
3. As everything that we have now is from God, we can express the relationship between God and man in a correct way, when we confess that we are debtors to God. In his Bull Pope Francis said that we need to contemplate the divine mercy bestowed on us (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, nn. 1-9). He also reiterated that the Church has a mission to go out toward the world and bear witness to the divine mercy (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, nn. 10-20). He also explained the relationship between justice and mercy (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, nn. 20-21). Unless such a relation is clearly understood, all the words about mercy will lose their proper meaning. Not only the words justice and mercy, but also all other words to describe God are just various expressions for one and the same fact: "God is love" (cf. 1Jn 4,8.16). This love manifests itself in various ways according to different persons and situations.
4. We can see a statue or a picture of Dike, carrying a balance scale as a symbol of justice in and around a court, a place where justice must be defended and realized. In reality, injustice is committed on the pretence of justice everywhere in our society. We need to balance Dike's scale, when we want to see a world of hope.
Jesus Christ draws everyone to Himself in His omnipotence, manifested in His limitless forgiveness and mercy (cf. Jn 12,32). The essence of Christian faith is to believe that we are saved by hope (cf. Rom 8.24). When we realize this, and thus change ourselves into better persons, we will see those who are thirsty for such divine forgiveness and mercy from a new perspective. Before we know it, walls of separation between us will be broken down (cf. Eph 2,14-16), and we will drop stones that we have in our hands to throw at other people (cf. Jn 8,2-11).
Pope Francis said that he will pray that divine love and mercy will be extended to everyone, through the indulgence granted in this year of extraordinary Jubilee, especially to those who have had no chance to be touched by divine mercy. The Holy Father concluded the Bull with his prayer, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the divine mercy for all humanity (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, nn. 22-25).
5. During this year of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which starts by opening and passing through the Holy Door designated in each diocese, we must deeply contemplate the face of mercy in diverse ways: making a pilgrimage to the Holy Door in each diocese; participating in "24 Hours for the Lord" which will be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday before the Forth Sunday of Lent; receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation; listening to the homilies of the Missionaries of Mercy sent by the Pope in person. If we open our hearts, we can be the true disciples of Christ, and change ourselves into "children of the Most High" (Lk 6,35). In addition, the Church will be "a credible witness to mercy" (Misericordiae Vultus, n. 25) and she can then render courage and hope to those in all situations, so that they can start again.
+ Vincent Ri Pyung-ho
Bishop of Jeonju
President CBCK Committee for Evangelization
News from the Church in Korea
● A Joint Statement on the Construction Plan of Gondola Lifts in National Parks
The Sub-Committee for Environment under the CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace issued a joint statement with the cooperation of seven other ecclesiastical bodies of some dioceses and religious institutes, along with a Catholic NGO.
Urging the "ecological conversion" (Laudato Si', n. 217) of all concerned parties, the statement asks the government to cancel the plan for constructing gondola lifts in Seoraksan National Park. It denounces the misbehavior and delusion of human beings who often think that they can live alone without other creatures of the earth, acting as if they are privileged to be dominant in the world. According to the statement, we can witness the results of such human arrogance especially in the aftermath of the so-called Four Major Rivers Project, including chronic proliferation of algal blossoms and the death of hundreds of thousands of fish.
However, the statement says, the government is now trying to inflict damage on mountains after the contamination of rivers. The statement criticizes the government which asserts that the existing 155 gondola lifts all around the country are not yet enough and plans to construct a new gondola lift first in Seoraksan National Park. This would result in the destruction of the last home for diverse wild animals, many of which belong to endangered species.
In conclusion, the statement asks the government to stop the construction immediately, quoting Laudato Si': "ecological destruction for the profit of a few itself is 'injustice.' It is an act to deprive other life and future generations of their right. The authorities must remember that 'the natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone' (Laudato Si', n. 95)."
● A Special Seminar on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy
The CBCK Committee for Evangelization (President: Most Rev. Vincent Ri Pyung-ho) held a special seminar with the theme "Misercordiae Vultus" at Hyehwadong parish in Seoul on October 16, 2015. This seminar was meant to ask the faithful to ponder upon the meaning of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, suggesting concrete action plans and ways of practicing the spirit of the Jubilee.
In this seminar, Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, was introduced with detailed and fruitful explanation by many experts. On top of that, supplementary material for systematical reading of Misericordiae Vultus was also suggested by the Diocese of Jeonju.
In his lecture with the theme "Merciful Like the Father", Bishop Ri explained the structure and meaning of Misercordiae Vultus and said that the Jubilee was proclaimed to have the Church opening her door, so that everybody can come into the Church without hesitation. Besides his systematical analysis on Misercordiae Vultus, Bishop Ri asked the faithful to practice some suggestions offered in the Bull.
In his lecture entitled "The Task and Practice of the Catholic Church in Korea in the Jubilee of Mercy", Rev. Bartholomew Jun Won, Assistant Director of the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea, introduced concrete plans on three different levels i.e. individual, within the Church, and without the Church.
● Votive Mass for the Peace of the Korean Peninsula on the Occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation and Division of Korea
The CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People (President: Most Rev. Peter Lee Ki-heon) celebrated a votive Mass for the Peace of the Korean Peninsula at Odu Mountain Unification Observatory on October 15, 2015. At this event, 25 bishops of Korea concelebrated the Mass, with the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, Archbishop of Gwangju and the President of the CBCK, presiding.
In his homily, Archbishop Kim said that the year of 2015 would be the first year to open a new door to unity and peace, overcoming the agony of division with the power of divine mercy, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation and division of Korea, just as Jews saw the new era of blessing after 70 years of Babylonian Captivity. He continued, "It is very naive and irresponsible for us to think that unification will come some day in the future with no concrete efforts on our part. The reconciliation and peace of the Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved when we are misled by the special interests of some political group or when we wait for the collapse of North Korea without doing anything."
In conclusion, Archbishop Kim prayed that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a special moment, a stepping stone of divine mercy for the mutual forgiveness and reconciliation of North and South Korea.
● National Common Educational Materials for Marriage Preparation
The CBCK Committee for Family Pastoral Ministry (President: Most Rev. Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil) held the 4th national meeting of diocesan director priests for family pastoral ministry at the conference hall of the Archdiocesan Chancellery of Daegu on October 16, 2015.
In the last meeting the director priests had agreed upon the publication of Guideline for the Marriage Preparation Program and Educational Materials for Marriage Preparation, expressing their sympathy with the importance of the marriage preparation program as well as the necessity of common educational materials. In this regard, they submitted 'A Plan for the Development of Common Educational Materials for Marriage Preparation' to the Permanent Council of the CBCK.
The participating diocesan director priests for family pastoral ministry made a comprehensive review of the suggestions of each diocese based on the above-mentioned plan. Especially, they reaffirmed that they would do their best for the qualitative enhancement of marriage education, as the formation for marriage is not a single event but an ongoing process demanding resolution and effort on the part of the faithful.
They also decided that metropolitan dioceses will principally prepare a marriage preparation program which can be completed in a day, paying due consideration to the engaged couples who do not have enough time for a program that takes more than one day.
● On-Sight Exposure for Bishops in 2015
A program of on-sight exposure for bishops was carried out at Haenuri Center for Severely Handicapped Persons (Director: Rev. Joachim Lee Ki-su) in Hwasung on November 4, 2015.
Four bishops participated in this program and shared time with the people of the Center. They looked around the Center and helped the people, playing and eating with them. Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Incheon, promised that he will pray for the handicapped, their families, and the staff members of the Center. He said, "when I look into the pure hearts of these people, I cannot but reflect on the grumpy remarks and attitudes that I made whenever I was in difficult situations." Most Rev. Lucas Kim Woon-hoe, Bishop of Chunchon and Apostolic Administrator of Hamhung, said, "it seems to be a quality time for the handicapped, when they can engage in programs such as 'making pottery by hand' and 'horticultural farming' with their pure enthusiasm."
Father Lee showed his appreciation to the bishops and asked them to give positive consideration to the effective utilization of the Church buildings, which have many spaces not in use especially during weekdays, for the handicapped who are desperately in need of institutes and group homes where they can stay for a long or short period of time. They also need independence education as a foundation for their future life.
This was the second program of on-sight exposure for bishops which started last year. Other bishops also participated in various programs of on-sight exposure in three small groups at: the sites of the Four Major Rivers Project near Nakdong River (Nov. 6); Delkkotmaeul, a welfare facility for the homeless (Nov. 17); small Christian communities at Sanseongdong Parish in the Diocese of Daejeon (Nov. 18).
The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
Peter Won Si-jang (1732-1793)
Peter Won Si-jang was born in 1732 in Eungjeong-ri, Hongju, Chungcheong-do (now, Seong dong-ri, Hapdok-eup, Dangjin-gun, Chungnam) to a common class family. Between 1788 and 1789, a few years after Catholicism was introduced into Korea, he and his cousin James Won Si-bo heard about the teaching of the Catholic religion and became Catholics. At that time Peter Won was about 57 years old. 'Si-jang' was his adult name.
Peter Won decided to leave home for one year to study the catechism. During that time he realized that 'the Catholic faith is a medicine to keep human life alive for thousands of years.' On returning home, he explained to his friends and relatives the major points of the catechism. God's grace empowered his explanations and moved all his friends and relatives who listened to him. They promised to believe in God. He was not baptized at that time.
Peter Won was nicknamed 'tiger' because of his wild and fierce character. But with the practice of Christian virtues he grew in gentleness. He distributed his fortune to the poor and devoted himself to teaching the catechism to his neighbors and introduced them to the Church. Because of such activities his name became known to the magistrate.
In 1791, when the Sinhae Persecution broke out, the magistrate of Hongju sent the police to arrest both Peter Won and James Won. His cousin James escaped on the advice of friends, but Peter Won was arrested and taken to the government office in Hongju. Peter Won was immediately taken to the magistrate who interrogated him and forced him to renounce his faith in God. But he did not yield, saying, "I can neither betray the Lord and my fellow Christians, nor tell where the Church books are."
The magistrate became angry at him, and ordered him to be beaten on the buttocks, seventy times. Despite this, he continuously explained his duty to God and to his parents, and the teaching of the Catholic religion.
During the time he was in prison, Peter Won was often called to the magistrate and interrogated, and ordered to apostatize. However, he continued to explain the Catholic teaching to the magistrate. One day a believer came to visit him in prison and baptized him.
The magistrate of Hongju reported to the governor about Peter Won and was given an order 'to beat Won Si-jang to death.' The magistrate took Peter Won out of prison and tortured him again, but he could not change his mind. Then the magistrate, as a last resort, decided to appeal to his paternal love. Peter Won had several children who were waiting for their father's return with great anguish. Upon hearing about his children, however, Peter Won answered as follows:
"My heart is moved deeply by stories of my children, but as the Lord Himself calls me, how can I refuse to respond to His call?"
The magistrate of Hongju wanted to conclude the case as soon as possible. He ordered that Peter Won be given his last meal, according to practice, and be beaten to death, but he still survived. Then the magistrate ordered that water be poured on him and that he be taken outside and left to freeze to death.
As soon as the water was poured on Peter Won, it froze. Nevertheless, he only meditated on the Passion of Jesus. Then, making his final prayer of thanksgiving, Peter Won offered his life to God. That was on January 28, 1793 (December 17, 1792 by the Lunar calendar). Peter Won was 61 years old.