Updated: March 11, 2021 08:51 AM GMT
The Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground in Seosan in central South Korea has been recognized as an international pilgrimage site by the Vatican. (Photo courtesy of Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground)
The faithful in South Korea are celebrating official Vatican recognition of a sacred Catholic site dedicated to thousands of martyrs as an international pilgrimage site.
The Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground at Seosan in central South Korea has been designated and proclaimed an international pilgrimage site by the Holy See, stated a press release from Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon.
The prelate said the Vatican recognition was made public on March 1, the 200th anniversary of the birth of prominent theologian and local missionary priest Father Thomas Choe Yang-eop, who is on the path to sainthood.
The Vatican announcement “brightens the lives of those who live forever in the memory of the Church,” said Bishop You.
“Walking along the pilgrimage site of faith, let us meet the martyrs who are a testament to God's work of salvation through their life and death.”
The Shrine of Haemi is located in the municipality of Seosan in South Chungcheong province about 280 kilometers south of the capital Seoul.
The shrine bears testimony to the great faith of about 2,000 Catholics who were imprisoned, tortured and buried alive during mass persecution of Korean Christians by rulers of the Joseon dynasty between 1866 and 1882.
Bishop You said that the Vatican primarily approved the Shrine of Haemi as an official international pilgrimage site on Nov. 29 last year and steps were taken for its proclamation.
Thanks to efforts from the Church, a 16-meter memorial tower was set up on the Haemi ground to pray tribute to hundreds of unknown martyrs. Church records show names and baptismal Christian names of only 132 Catholics who embraced martyrdom at Haemi.
Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization of the Holy See, said in the decree that the testimony of numerous martyrs of the Korean Church "will pass on faith to the descendants and make a living community of disciples and witnesses of Jesus Christ come true."
The Haemi shrine is the second Korean site, and the third in Asia, to be recognized as an international pilgrimage site by the Vatican after the Seoul Catholic Pilgrimage Routes.
Along with the three historic international pilgrimage sites of Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostella, the Holy See has recognized 20 sites of Marian apparitions in various parts of the world.
"The proclamation of the Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground as an official international pilgrimage site is a glorious event that recognizes the faith of nameless martyrs as an example and makes it known to the entire world," a Catholic priest in charge of the shrine said in an interview with Yonhap news agency.
Maeng Jeong-ho, mayor of Seosan, said that the municipality is glad as Seosan's historical significance has been internationally recognized and they vow to make good efforts to preserve the sacred site.
About 46 percent of South Koreans adhere to no religion while 29 percent are Christians and 23 percent are Buddhists in a population of about 51.8 million, according to Pew Research Center.
While Protestants make up the majority, the Catholic Church also has a significant following, estimated to be 11 percent of the population or about 5.6 million people.