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Committee pushes assassin's sainthood
Church condemned the murder, but changed its position in 1993 to supportA portrait of Thomas An Jung-geun
- Stephen Hong, Seoul
- September 29, 2011
Thomas An assassinated Ito Hirobumi, Japanâ€™s first prime minister and the first Japanese resident general of Korea, on October 26, 1909, in Harbin, northeastern China. He was later executed by the Japanese on March 26, 1910.
Koreans regard Anâ€™s killing of Ito as a symbol of Koreaâ€™s resistance against Japanese imperialism. Korea suffered greatly under Japanese colonial rule which ended in 1945.
For years the Catholic Church condemned the murder, but changed its position when the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul officiated at a Mass for An in 1993, during which he said: â€śAn acted in righteous defense of the nation. The Catholic Church does not regard killing committed to defend the nation from unjust aggression as a crime.â€ť
The overwhelming view of the symposium yesterday was that An should eventually be canonized.
Leo Hwang Jong-ryul, representative of the Dumoolmeori Evangelization Research Center, said Anâ€™s actions â€ścan be justified as Godâ€™s justice,â€ť like St. Joan of Arc (1412-31), the French medieval heroine who was canonized in 1920.
He also pointed to Judith from the Old Testament, saying the Judean widow went to the camp of Holofernes, commander-in-chief of the Assyrians who had invaded Judea, and cut off his head to save her country.
When people understand why she killed him, no one â€ścan condemn her act,â€ť and likewise Anâ€™s killing of Hirobumi was â€śan act to witness Godâ€™s justice at great risk to his own life.â€ť
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, president of the preparatory committee, said last year that the archdiocese is ready for the beatification process of An and would review his cause soon.
Church says patriotâ€™s assassination act justified