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Vatican to install first statue of Korean saint Andrew Kim

Korean sculptor Han Jin-seop is to produce a marble image of the 19th-century martyr

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-46), the first Korean Catholic priest-martyr

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-46), the first Korean Catholic priest-martyr. (Photo: YouTube)

Published: October 18, 2022 10:24 AM GMT

Updated: October 18, 2022 11:20 AM GMT

A statue of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Korea’s first priest-martyr, will be installed in a niche outside Saint Peter's Basilica commemorating the 200th birth year of the saint, said Korean Church officials.

The preparation of the statue has been underway since Pope Francis accepted the proposal from Archbishop Lazzaro Heung-sik You of Daejeon, who is also the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy.

"The production cost is borne jointly by the Korean diocese, and it is in progress. It is a great honor for our Korean church,” said Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

Prominent Korean sculptor Han Jin-seop will lead the production of the statue in Carrara marble. The statue is estimated to weigh around 40 tonnes post-production, the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation reported on Oct. 13.

The bishop’s conference has yet to share further details of the project such as the installation date and budget.

Han Jin-seop has crafted dozens of stone sculptures that majestically feature in various places including churches, parks, schools and museums.

Han is considered a pioneer in transforming Korea’s tradition of direct stone carving into refined abstraction. His portfolio includes a series of sculptures of altars, pulpits and statues in Korean churches among other works.

These include Daehwa Cathedral in Pyeongchang in Wonju, Seongnam Bundang Castle in Suwon, Nonhyeon Cathedral in Seoul, Hongje Cathedral and Ssangyong Cathedral in Cheonan in Daejeon.

A sculpture of the Holy Family at Bundang Church in Suwon diocese is one of the most notable church artworks of Han. The sculpture, installed in 2009, features St. Joseph with open arms in a gesture of protecting the happy Holy Family.

The Korean Church has organized various events commemorating the 200th year of the birth of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the country’s most celebrated and revered Catholic saint.

Born to a family of Christian converts in 1821, Andrew Kim was baptized at the age of 15. He studied at a seminary in Macau and was ordained in 1845 as the first Korean Catholic priest. He was arrested and persecuted for his efforts in evangelization during the rule of the staunchly Buddhist Joseon dynasty.

He was executed in 1846 at the age of 25.

Pope John Paul II canonized 103 martyrs including Andrew Kim during his visit to South Korea in 1984.

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