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Korean Catholics warned over 'Naju' Marian apparition

Gwangju archdiocese also cautioned about an ex-priest who was expelled from Salesian congregation in 2022
Korean Catholic bishops have rejected apparition and miracles associated with Virgin Mary of Naju.

Korean Catholic bishops have rejected apparition and miracles associated with Virgin Mary of Naju. (Photo: najumary.or.kr) 

Published: January 05, 2024 10:18 AM GMT
Updated: January 05, 2024 10:47 AM GMT

The Archdiocese of Gwangju in South Korea has issued a letter warning clergy, religious and laypeople to refrain from promoting devotion to a controversial Marian apparition not recognized by the church.

The archdiocese also cautioned Catholics about ex-priest Alexander Kim Dae-sik who was expelled from the Salesian congregation in 2022 but continues to administer sacraments illicitly and without permission in private places related to “the Naju phenomenon.”

Korea-born Kim was ordained in 1996 as a Salesian priest, worked in Malawi, Africa as a missionary and returned to the homeland in 2020.

Since his return, Kim visited a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Naju, Gwangju and started promoting devotion to the controversial apparition, the archdiocese said.

Father Angel Fernández Artime, Superior General of the Salesian Society issued a decree on Oct. 22, 2022, ordering Kim’s expulsion from the religious order due to his illegitimate acts.

Artime cited a decree from former Gwangju archbishop Andrew Choi Chang-moo that incurs automatic excommunication to anyone who presides over or participates in sacramental ceremonies at the location of the so-called 1985 Marian apparition.

“Clergy, religious, and laypeople who preside over or participate in the administration of the sacraments and sacramental ceremonies prohibited by them in arbitrary chapels and the Virgin Mary’s Garden are subject to automatic punishment and excommunication,” Archbishop Choi said in the decree dated Jan. 21, 2008.

The so-called Marian miracle of Naju dates to the 1980s when Julia Kim, a mother of four, claimed she had a vision of Jesus with his Sacred Heart bleeding in 1982 and asking for the conversion of sinners.

Then, she claimed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary owned by her started weeping on June 30, 1985.

Kim, a Protestant-turned-Catholic, also claimed she was miraculously healed from terminal cancer even though doctors said she had no hope for survival.

As the stories of the apparition and Julia’s healing spread, many flocked to visit the statue. Some started calling the statue Our Lady of Naju, which is now placed in a hilly garden.

This prompted the Archdiocese of Gwangju, which covers the area, to conduct investigations into the claims.

Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference rejected the miracles associated with the shrine.

In 1998, former Gwangju Archbishop Victorinus Youn Kong-hi declared that so-called "miracles" attributed to the Virgin Mary in Naju city have produced no evidence that "they are supernatural and thus from God."

To consider the alleged events in Naju as supernatural is regarded as "an act of breaking the unity of the faith of the Church," Youn warned.

This report is brought to you in partnership with Catholic Times of Korea.

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