Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Republic of Korea from 13 to 18 August 2014, on the occasion of the Sixth Asian Youth Day. He will preside over the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs. A meaningful visit not only for the country but for all of Asia.
In a message commenting on the Pope’s visit, the Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, said, ìI am very grateful that the Holy Father has kept in mind the young people of Asia and the Korean faithful, and has decided to travel such a long way to our country. I pray that Pope Francis’ visit will bring reconciliation and peace to the Korean Peninsula’.
The Pontiff’ s five-day visit to Korea seems to be increasingly rich in important events and gestures, not only for the country but for all of Asia. The Korean Catholic Church is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing of the Asian continent.
According to figures as of December 31, 2013, released by the National Bishop’s Conference, the number of Catholics in Korea was 5,442,996, an increase of 1.5% (81,627) over the last year. This accounts for 10.4% of the total population. The total number of Catholics in Korea has slightly and consistently increased since 2003.
Of the 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, the Archdiocese of Seoul is the most populated with 27.1% of the total Catholics in Korea, followed by the Diocese of Suwon (15.2%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (8.8%), and the Diocese of Incheon (8.7%). The combined number of the faithful in the metropolitan area (Seoul, Incheon, Uijeongbu and Suwon) accounted for 56.1% of all the Catholics in Korea.
The statistics also indicates that the number of clergy in Korea in 2013 amounted to 4,901 with 36 bishops, including two Cardinals. There were 4,695 Korean priests and 170 foreign priests. Among the priests, 3,995 were diocesan priests, 697 were religious priests and 173 were missionary priests.
The Korean Martyrs
Pope Francis will arrive in Korea on 14 August. At the Seoul international airport, he will be welcomed by President Park Geun-hye and several bishops. After celebrating Holy Mass in private at the apostolic nunciature, he will make a courtesy visit to the president of the Republic and will meet with the political authorities, whom he will address at the Blue House. The first day will conclude with a meeting with the bishops of Korea at the offices of the Episcopal Conference.
The following day – August 15, feast of the Assumption of Mary – the Pope will transfer by helicopter to Daejeon where he will celebrate Mass in the World Cup Stadium. He will then lunch with some young people in the major seminary and from there will proceed by helicopter to the shrine of Solmoe, South Chungcheong Province (diocese of Daejeon) to meet with the young of Asia.
The shrine was erected on the site where Taegon Saint Andrew Kim, the first Korean priest and martyr for his faith, was born. His canonization, along with that of another 102 companions, was presided over by Pope John Paul II during his trip to Korea in 1984.
The Bishop of Daejeon, Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung said, ‘I truly believe that the young people of Asia, by participating in the Youth Day in our diocese which is rich in the spirit of the martyrs, will receive the same spirit, to counter all worldliness and selfishness with an authentic life of faith, and to be reborn as courageous heralds of the Gospel. With Pope Francis’ election the Holy Spirit has revealed a new path for the Church to travel. And at the same time is showing the whole of humanity a new way in which to live. Pope Francis, who leads the lost sheep of today to the path full of joy that comes from the Gospel, is for us a new ‘Pentecost’, a real ‘compass’ of the Spirit. The celebration of the sixth Asian Youth Day and the third Korean Youth Day, will be remembered as a genuine ‘new epiphany of the Lord’ which will shine the love of God on the whole world’.
On 16 August, the Pope will preside over the ceremony of beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions, martyrs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the afternoon of the same day, the Pope will travel to view the Flower Neighborhood in Eumseong, one of the most famous Catholic works of the country: it is a shelter for homeless people with disabilities, and is managed by Fr.Oh Woong-jin, who has already met Francis in Rome.
On 17 August the Pope will meet with the bishops of Asia in the shrine of Haemi, the place of martyrdom of many of the new Blessed. After lunching with the prelates, Francis will celebrate Holy Mass at 4.30 p.m. to mark the closing of the 6th Asian Youth Day in the castle of Haemi, from where he will fly to Seoul.
On 18 August, before leaving for Italy, the Pope will celebrate a solemn thanksgiving Mass in the Myeongdong cathedral in Seoul. The Mass will be dedicated to the Korean peninsula. The Pontiff will send a message of peace and pray for the reconciliation of the nation and of the Korean people.