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Korean saint’s memorial church gets heritage site listing

St Andrew Kim Tae-gon Church in Suwon diocese houses first Korean priest's remains

An interior view of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon Catholic Church in Anseong in South Korea

An interior view of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon Catholic Church in Anseong in South Korea. (Photo: Suwon Diocese)

Published: March 17, 2023 07:26 AM GMT

Updated: March 17, 2023 08:06 AM GMT

A memorial church that houses the remains of the first Korean priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, has been listed as a National Cultural Property by the South Korean government, Church sources say.

The Cultural Heritage Administration notified Bishop Matthias Ri long-hoon of Suwon diocese about St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon Catholic Church's listing on March 15, the diocesan website reported.

The church at the Mirinae Catholic shrine in Anseong, a city about 50 kilometers south of the capital Seoul, was built in 1928. It houses the remains of the saint, the coffin that first contained his body after his martyrdom in the 19th century and a graveyard in the front.

In its notification, the state agency applauded the church for its cultural and architectural value, which were considered for listing it as a heritage site.

“The original shape of the memorial church is well maintained, and the tombs located in front of the church further demonstrate the symbolism and sense of place of the cathedral,” the agency said.

The Cultural Heritage Administration plans to systematically preserve and manage the newly registered church in cooperation with the local government and the diocese.

The church is the fifth Catholic site in Suwon diocese listed as a National Cultural Property.

“I think that the Anseong St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon memorial church has been recognized for its value nationally,” said the shrine’s rector, Father Ji Cheol-hyeon.

“I hope many people will learn about St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon through the church's registration as a cultural property,” the priest said.

Andrew Kim Tae-gon was born on Aug. 21, 1821. His parents were Christian converts. He was baptized at the age of 15 and moved to Macau in China to study in a seminary, according to Franciscan media.

He returned home after six years and then again moved to Shanghai in China, where he was ordained as the first Korean-born Catholic priest.

In Korea, he assisted Catholic missionaries and one of his responsibilities was to help missionaries enter the country from the sea to evade border patrols.

During that period, Joseon dynasty rulers were persecuting Christians which saw thousands brutally tortured and massacred. The rulers viewed Christianity as a subversive Western religion that defied Confucian ethics and invited foreign imperialism.

Andrew Kim Tae-gon was arrested for his missionary work and tortured in prison. He was beheaded by the Han River near Seoul on Sept. 16, 1846, when he was 25.

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

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

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon is now the patron saint of clergy in Korea.


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