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Korean Catholics celebrate birth bicentenary of St. Andrew Kim

The first Korean Catholic priest and patron saint of the country's clergy embraced martyrdom at the age of 25

Korean Catholics celebrate birth bicentenary of St. Andrew Kim

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was beheaded in 1846. (Photo: YouTube)

Catholics across South Korea joined a special Mass and other commemorative events to mark the 200th birth anniversary of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the country’s first Catholic priest and one of its most revered martyrs.

On Aug. 21, the birthday of the saint, special Masses were offered in 1,750 churches in South Korea in presence of the local faithful, while those unable to join due to Covid-19 restrictions joined the livestreamed liturgy, reported Vatican News.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea declared Nov. 29, 2020, to Nov. 27, 2021, as the Jubilee Year to mark the birth bicentenary of the saint with yearlong programs and activities.

The theme of the jubilee year is “Are you a Catholic faithful?" It refers to the question put to the saint by his persecutors before he was murdered. He passionately answered: “Yes, I am a Catholic.”

The Shrine of Solmoe in Daejeon Diocese, the birthplace of St. Andrew Kim, organized programs from Aug. 14-22 to honor the saint at the newly established Church of Memory and Hope, reports the Catholic Times of Korea.

The shrine recently inaugurated a special art complex to honor the saint.

It is the greatest misfortune that the two Koreas have been separated for more than 70 years. I continue to pray for peace

The programs coincided with the centenary of the establishment of the Legion of Mary, a global lay Catholic association.

In Daejeon, auxiliary Bishop Augustinus Jong-soo Kim celebrated Mass in the presence of bishops including Cardinal Andrew Yeom of Seoul and other civil, social and church dignitaries.

In 2014, during his visit to South Korea, Pope Francis visited the Solmoe Shrine to attend Asian Youth Day.

A volunteer youth group organized a Memory and Hope concert where stories of faith and songs of praise based on the Bible were performed at the shrine on Aug. 15.

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On Aug. 16, Catholics joined a prayer for unification and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Korean Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, the newly appointed prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy and former bishop of Daejeon, sent a special video message.

"I sincerely hope that the South and the North will open their hearts and talk to each other so that true peace can dwell on the Korean Peninsula," said Archbishop You, who oversaw programs and activities of the jubilee year until his Vatican appointment.

“It is the greatest misfortune that the two Koreas have been separated for more than 70 years. I continue to pray for peace,” the prelate said.

He pioneered evangelization by supporting foreign missionaries to enter the country through water routes by evading border patrols

An international academic symposium on the life and works of St. Andrew Kim and Catholicism in Korea was held online from Aug. 17-19.

Due to Covid-19, most programs and events have been scaled down and moved online. A dedicated website https://www.kimdaegeon.com has been launched where various programs and features of the bicentenary are stored and free for downloading.

The Solmoe Shrine has been hosting a special brick-art exhibition on the life and works of St. Andrew Kim by sculptor Lee Chun-man, who earlier created the statue of the saint at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

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 traveled 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 of the Joseon dynasty 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.

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