Some 2,000 Catholics from around South Korea braved a heat wave and shored up their faith by visiting shrines throughout the capital as they celebrated Korea Youth Day (KYD) in Seoul from Aug. 11-15. The fourth edition of the localized version of World Youth Day ran under the banner "It is I; do not be afraid," a reference to John 6:20. The organizing committee chose this theme to instill a positive mindset in young parishioners as they face the challenging reality of a highly competitive society and tough job market. After a series of welcoming ceremonies at Seoul parishes, attendees enjoyed an opening Mass at Seoul Major Seminary and then made pilgrimages to the shrines of former martyrs on the following day. "Jesus doesn't just want us to seek Him, but also to know Him better," Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung
of Seoul said during his homily at the opening Mass. "I hope you experience the faith and passion for Jesus that the martyrs at various shrines felt, and that this helps to raise your faith, passion and happiness." Auxiliary Bishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul, who also serves as president of the Bishops Committee for Youth Ministry, said: "The aim of this KYD is to show young people that to be really happy, they need to open their eyes to God and discard secular values." Attendees also got to experience catechism classes by bishops, liturgies with various religious institutions and a cultural festival on Aug. 13. The itinerary also included a concert and a Taize prayer meeting on Aug. 14 before a closing Mass was held at Seoul Plaza on Aug. 15. Taize prayer, short Latin chants repeated over and over in the dark followed by minutes of silence, has been growing in popularity in both Catholic and Protestant churches around the world, especially on Advent. But the highlight of the five days for most was the pilgrimages, dubbed "Jesus who we meet on the streets." These saw young Koreans visit a number of holy places in Seoul and seek faith from the heroic martyrs of bygone times. Records indicate that up to 10,000 Catholic Christians were killed during a period of violent religious persecution in Korea in the 19th
century. Of them, Pope St. John Paul II canonized 103 martyrs in Seoul on May 6, 1984, marking a significant break from tradition as this honor is usually bestowed in Rome. Pope Francis beatified them on Asian Youth Day in 2014 when he visited the city and also gave a Mass at a leading cathedral there. Sophia Lee Seon-hee from Daegu Archdiocese's Sinam Church said it was an honor to attend their shrines and consider the sacrifices they had made.
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She said the volunteers leading the pilgrimages had been "inspirational." "We could see Jesus in the faces of others as we walked together despite the searing heat," she said. "The volunteers were the real 'Jesus we met in the streets' as they just ignored the heat and kept on marching." The first edition of KYD was held in 2007 in southern Jeju. The subtropical island is now seeing a backlash against an influx of Yemeni refugees despite the pope having recently granted funding
for them, while the second took place in Uijeongbu in 2010. The third coincided with the 6th Asian Youth Day in the Korean city of Daejeon in 2014, which Pope Francis attended. In between the second and third editions, the Vatican invited four former North Korean refugees
who had settled in South Korea to participate in the World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations in Madrid, Spain.