st.Andrew Kim Taegon-One of the Korean Martyrs

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  St.Andrew Kim Taegon

Feast Day : September 20



Also known as: Andrew Kim




Patronage: Korean clergy




Andrew Kim was born to the nobility. Both his parents converted to Christianity, and his father died a martyr. Christianity did not come to Korea until the 1600s and not to any extent until the late 1700s. Korea’s rulers maintained a policy of total isolationism, keeping out any Western influence and making entry into Korea practically impossible. In 1784, Pietro Yi was the first Korean to be baptized at Pechino, but he denied his faith in the persecutions of 1791, started when a Korean Christian noble refused to burn incense to honor the memory of his mother. By 1801, sporadic and localized persecutions had been extended to the entire country. One Chinese priest who had managed to enter Korea offered himself as a sacrifice, hoping that his death might stop the sufferings of other Christians. Authorities beheaded him on May 31, 1801, but did not end the persecutions. Martyrdom inspired the faithful, and Korea’s tiny Catholic community petitioned other countries to send priests. France answered the Koreans’ prayers, secretly slipping several bishops and priests, all members of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris, into the country. In 1839, the return of the conservative faction to Korean government resulted in widespread persecution, lasting until 1846. Three French clerics—two priests and the bishop Msgr. Laurence Imbert—all died by beheading on September 21, 1839. Andrew Kim had been baptized at 15. He then traveled 1,300 miles from Korea to the nearest seminary in China. He also studied Latin in Macao. Slipping back into Korea in 1845, he became the first native-born Korean ordained a priest, working tirelessly to bring the Sacraments to the people until Korean tribesmen captured, tortured, then beheaded him at the edge of a river at sunset on September 16, 1846. Terrified followers retrieved his body late that night, taking it into the mountains for a proper and safe burial. Only two letters remain from Andrew Kim: one to the vicar apostolic bishop who ordained him, and one to his followers, exhorting them to keep the faith. One of those faithful was Paul Chong Hasang, who was killed less than a week later on September 22. Persecutions rose again in 1861. Two more French bishops and a number of missionaries were martyred, as well as many ordinary Koreans. Estimates run as high as 10,000 over the two periods. Official persecutions ended in 1886; up until 1881, Christianity was referred to in government documents as “the perverse doctrine.” Today Christianity flourishes in South Korea and struggles on as the Church of Silence in communist North Korea. On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II held services in Seoul to canonize 103 saints, including Andrew Kim and Paul Chong Hasang, as representatives of the Korean martyrs. The saints’ feast day was inserted into the Calendar of the Universal Church.

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