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Holy See clears way for first North Korean saint

Beatification beckons for former bishop of Pyongyang

<p>Pyongyang (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)</p>

Pyongyang (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

  • La Chiesa/EspressoOnline.net
  • Vatican City
  • August 14, 2013
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Twice a month the Vatican secretariat of state publishes modifications to the Annuario Pontificio for the current year. The booklet of last July 1 contains a curious piece of news on one of the most impenetrable countries of the globe, North Korea, which periodically makes international headlines with the threat of using nuclear weapons.

The news is that the Holy See is finally recognizing as vacant the diocesan see of Pyongyang, following the death of its bishop, Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho, born on October 12, 1906, ordained a priest on May 25, 1933, appointed apostolic vicar by Pius XII on March 24, 1944, and consecrated the following June 29.

But the news is not that a prelate has died at the venerable age of more than 106, which would be a record, but the fact that the Annuario no longer includes the name of Hong, who for decades appeared as the ordinary of Pyongyang but with the specification that he was to be considered "missing."

Bishop Hong was, in fact, one of the 166 clerics who were killed or abducted in the course of the terrible persecutions that took place in North Korea at the end of the 1940's with the advent of the communist regime of Kim Il-sung.

Therefore, for more than sixty years nothing more was known about him, but the Holy See never forgot him. And it always kept his name in the official who's who.

Not only that. On March 10, 1962 John XXIII decided to elevate to the rank of diocese the apostolic vicariate of Pyongyang, and appointed as the first bishop precisely the "missing" Monsignor Hong.

The perseverance of the Holy See in keeping alive for decades the name of the "missing" bishop was - as explained years ago by the cardinal, now emeritus, of Seoul Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk - "a gesture of the Holy See to mark the drama that was and still is lived by the Church in Korea."

But the decision made this year to recognize the death of Hong does not mean that this "drama" of the Korean Church is considered closed. Its motivation is another. It is connected to the fact that the Korean bishops have asked the Vatican congregation for the causes of saints for the "nihil obstat" to open the cause of beatification of Hong and 80 of his martyr companions. And of course no one can be a candidate for the glory of the altars if he is not dead, officially as well.

Full Story: Vatican Diary/The first saint of North Korea 

Source: La Chiesa/EspressoOnline.net

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