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Catholic art complex honors patron saint of Korea

A site paying homage to St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first native Korean priest, combines culture with faith

Catholic art complex honors patron saint of Korea

St. Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-46), the first native Korean priest and martyr. (Photo: Fides.org)

Daejeon Diocese in South Korea has opened a special art complex at the birthplace of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first native Korean priest and patron saint of clergy in the country.

Memory and Hope Catholic art complex was inaugurated at the Solmoe Holy Land in Chungnam of Daejeon Diocese on July 20.

The event was the latest in a series of programs and activities by the Catholic Church in Korea to mark the 200th birth anniversary of the saint.

The program was also incorporated as a thanksgiving ceremony for Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejeon, who was appointed prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy last month.

Solmoe Catholic Shrine is the birthplace of St. Andrew Kim and is a popular pilgrimage site. Pope Francis visited the site during his trip to South Korea to attend Asian Youth Day.

The complex has been built on 22,365 square meters of land that cost about 13 billion won (US$1.12 million), reported the Catholic Times.

The present age is an era of culture, so efforts for evangelization also require a cultural approach

It consists of a memorial church at the center with a 400-seat capacity, an art performance hall and two exhibition rooms. A spacious and open outdoor plaza surrounds the complex, which is suitable for small and large-scale events.

The beautiful roof of the complex has been composed with 13 large and small rose petals signifying the blood and sweat of martyrs from persecution that result in blossoming the flowers of faith.   

Father Lee Yong-ho, who is in charge of Solmoe Shrine, noted that combining culture with faith is essential for evangelization in this age.

“The present age is an era of culture, so efforts for evangelization also require a cultural approach,” said Father Lee as quoted by the Catholic Times.

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Daejeon Diocese will host a range of commemorative events at Solmoe Shrine from Aug. 14-22 to mark the 200th birth anniversary of St. Andrew Kim.

The saint was born on Aug. 21, 1821, in the Solmoe area covered by Daejeon Diocese to a family of Christian converts and was baptized at the age of 15, according to Franciscan media. Following his conversion, he travelled to a seminary in Macau, China, and returned to his homeland after six years through Manchuria. The same year, he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai, where he was ordained a priest.

Back in Korea, he pioneered evangelization by supporting foreign missionaries to enter the country through water routes by evading border patrols. Such acts met with a brutal response from staunchly Buddhist Korean rulers who viewed Christianity as an alien, subversive religion.

Andrew Kim was arrested, tortured and beheaded on Sept. 16, 1846, at the Han River near Seoul.  

The saint’s father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839. Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle and married man, was also martyred in 1839 at age 45.

The Church faced massive persecution and hundreds of Christian men and women including clergy were martyred for refusing to denounce their faith

It is believed Christianity first came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. It then started as an indigenous lay movement.

However, the Church faced massive persecution and hundreds of Christian men and women including clergy were martyred for refusing to denounce their faith.

In 1984, during his visit to Korea, Pope John Paul II canonized 103 martyrs including Andrew Kim, Kim's father Ignatius Kim, Paul Chong and seven French missionaries who had been martyred in the 19th century. 

During his visit to Korea in 2014, Pope Francis beatified Korean martyrs Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions and praised their “great sacrifices” and their call “to put Christ first.”

South Korea has about 5.6 million Catholics in an estimated population of 51.8 million.

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