Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung (center), Archbishop of Seoul, leads Archbishop Rino Fisichella (left), president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao in the Philippines during a tour of one of Seoul's museums on Sept. 11. (Photo by Joe Torres)
The Vatican will hold an official celebration in Seoul on Sept. 14 to recognize the South Korean capital as an official international pilgrimage site, a first for Asia, for its martyrdom shrines.
The event will be held at the historical Seosomun Park, where hundreds of people, including 44 who were already declared saints and 27 others who were declared blessed, were killed.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, said the recognition was "very meaningful" to the Korean people because pilgrimages to these sites have become "part of our life."
The prelate said the Korean Church was founded on the "blood and sweat "of its martyrs who endured severe persecution because of their faith.
Since 2013, Seoul Archdiocese has been organizing pilgrimages to various historical sites that hold important significance in the more than 200 years of church history in the city.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, will lead the celebration.
The prelate said the recognition of Seoul's pilgrimage sites is a "special moment" that shows the Catholic Church's efforts in evangelization.
"The idea of this pilgrimage is an important moment for the church," said Archbishop Fisichella, adding that "popular religiosity" plays a role in the life of the faithful.
He said the Catholic Church these days, with all the challenges it is facing, "needs new strong movements of evangelization."
At least 30 Asian church leaders from 13 countries took part in a "Pilgrimage Week" celebration that started on Sept. 10.
"As descendants of the martyrs who were forced to endure horrendous persecution and suffering ... we eagerly await official recognition," said Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung.
The archbishop of Seoul said Asian Catholics "should develop better relationships through the pilgrimage."
"Stained in the blood and sweat of the martyrs, these pilgrimage routes are not just a legacy of the church in Korea alone," said the cardinal.
He described the pilgrimage areas as a "sacred patrimony not only for Catholics, but for all citizens on the Korean Peninsula, the people of Asia and the world."
Hyun Il-kim of the Seoul Tourism Office said the religious activity is an opportunity for "cultural exchange and a new experience" for visitors to the country.
He said it combines "tradition and modernism" as the country continues to develop in technology.