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Historical Church Rebuilt With Chapel For Korean Saint Welcomes Pilgrims To Shanghai

  • China
  • July 21 2005
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Despite being relocated to a new site and given a modern appearance, one of the oldest churches in Shanghai diocese continues to attract Catholics, particularly Korean pilgrims.

Father Gong Tiande, the parish priest, explained to UCA News that Immaculate Conception Church has become a "holy land" for Korean Catholics, because the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, was ordained here in 1845. The saint was martyred the following year in Korea.

As part of urban development in Pudong New District, the church, popularly known as Jinjiaxiang Church, was torn down in March 2001 and relocated a kilometer southwest of the original site. Construction on the new church was completed in June 2004, according to the Father Gong, 67.

Pudong, a coastal area about 1,100 kilometers southeast of Beijing, has been a Catholic stronghold for several centuries. It emerged as a financial and trade zone in Shanghai in the early 1990s.

Surrounded by high-rise residential buildings, the new Jinjiaxiang Church can hold about 1,000 people. A large bronze statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception stands on a massive pedestal atop the roof of the circular church building.

The chapel dedicated to Saint Andrew Kim is in the Church compound. It was designed to suggest the shape of a ship to symbolize the saint´s sailing 1,300 miles from Korea to Macau for theological formation, explained Father Gong.

During May 2005, the first "Month of Mary" since the church reopened, it attracted as many as 700 pilgrims a day from various provinces of China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam, and even from the United States, said Chen Linsheng, a lay Catholic.

Korean Father Andrew Kim Byung-soo, 44, who serves fellow Korean Catholics in Shanghai, told UCA News July 15 that last year the Saint Andrew Kim Chapel received approximately 30 groups from South Korea on pilgrimage tours. He celebrated Masses for these pilgrims, and introduced them to the saint´s life on Chinese soil and the history of Jinjiaxiang Church.

Saint Andrew Kim studied philosophy and theology in Macau, the nearest seminary in East Asia at that time, and was ordained a priest in Shanghai on Aug. 17, 1845. He then went back to Korea to preach, but was beheaded in 1846, at the age of 25, during a persecution of Catholics, who renounced ancestor veneration on the instructions of the bishop of Beijing. Pope John Paul II canonized the first Korean priest in 1984 as one of the 103 Korean Martyrs.

After the old Jinjiaxiang Church erected a monument and installed a relic of the saint for veneration, it became a popular pilgrimage site among Korean Catholics.

Now Father Kim hopes the saint´s relic will be reinstalled in the new chapel. It was moved to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the same district ahead of the demolition of the old church, and the new church needs the approval of religious affairs officials to get it back, he said.

The Korean community in Shanghai has a Korean Mass once a month and attends English Masses on other Sundays at St. Peter´s Church in another downtown district, according to Father Kim, a priest of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of Korea.

On July 3, two days ahead of the beatification anniversary of Saint Andrew Kim, the community welcomed 24 new Catholics at Jinjiaxiang Church. In August the Korean Catholics will celebrate the 160th anniversary of the saint´s ordination, the priest added.

The community currently has about 600 members, mostly Korean businessmen in their 30s and 40s and their family members, and some Korean students. On weekdays, Korean women make hosts for Communion and give local nuns lessons in the Korean language, said Father Kim, who has been in Shanghai two-and-a-half years.

Father Gong told UCA News Jinjiaxiang Church resumed Masses soon after it was blessed in June 2004, but could only have weekday Masses in Chinese twice a week due to the shortage of priests. The official reopening ceremony was delayed to May 14, 2005, since 89-year-old Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai was in poor health last year.

The original church was one of the oldest churches in Shanghai. The first church building was erected between 1628 and 1643, and had been repaired and enlarged several times over the centuries. It was once the cathedral of Jiangnan apostolic vicariate, which was established in 1856. The small church was restored for use in 1987, after religious activities were allowed to resume in the late 1970s following the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.

END

(Accompanying photos available at here)

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