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Committee pushes assassin's sainthood

Church condemned the murder, but changed its position in 1993 to support

A portrait of Thomas An Jung-geun
A portrait of Thomas An Jung-geun
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • September 29, 2011
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Seoul archdiocese’s Preparatory Committee for Beatification and Canonization held a symposium yesterday at the Catholic Center to discuss the possibility of canonizing a “Catholic patriot,” Thomas An Jung-geun.

Thomas An assassinated Ito Hirobumi, Japan’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 An’s killing of Ito as a symbol of Korea’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: “An 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.”

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 An’s actions “can be justified as God’s justice,” 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 “can condemn her act,” and likewise An’s killing of Hirobumi was “an act to witness God’s justice at great risk to his own life.”

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.

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Church says patriot’s assassination act justified
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