SEOUL, South Korea, DEC. 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See has approved the opening of the beatification process for Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, tortured and killed for the faith in 1791, when Christianity had just reached Korea.
The missionary agency Fides was informed of the decision by the Korean Bishops’ Commission for Beatifications and Canonizations. Last year the Church in Korea sent all the relative documentation to the Vatican Congregation for Sainthood Causes.
The commission formed a panel of history experts to act as consultors for the Vatican congregation, presided over by Andrea Kim Jin-so director of Honam History Center.
In 1791, Paul Yun Ji-Chung, a noble who had become a Christian, decided not to bury his mother according to traditional Confucian customs widespread in Korea. The incident was reported to the local authorities and ferocious persecution of Christians began.
Yun Ji-Chung was the first of many noble Korean Christians to be exiled or killed for their faith in Christ. Christianity, introduced in Korea in 1784, was officially banned as an “evil cult that destroyed human relations and traditional moral order.”
Catholics in Korea went underground until 1895, when they obtained freedom of worship but in a century they experienced four major persecutions: Shinyu in 1801; Gyhae in 1839; Byung-o in 1846; and Byung-In in 1866. The local Church estimates that no fewer than 16,000 Korean Catholics were martyred during this period.
Domenico Youn Minku, of Suwon Catholic University, who is a postulator of the beatification cause, told Fides: “Unique in the history of the Church, it was lay people who introduced the faith in Korea. Korean scholars discovered the faith by reading books in Chinese carried by European missionaries to China. After the first baptism in 1784, the young Church was soon afflicted by fierce persecution.”