Florence(Fides Service) - A piece of the history of the Church in Korea and Korean spirituality has found a place in the parish church of S. Jacopo in Avane, Empoli diocese of Florence where a side chapel was recently dedicated to the first Korean priest, martyr Saint Andrew Kim. The celebration on January 30 was presided by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, Archbishop of Florence with the emeritus Archbishop of Florence Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, Reverend Antonio Tal Su Jon, rector of the Pontifical Korean College in Rome and parish priest of Avane Rev. Renzo Fanfani.
The dedication of a side chapel in the archdiocese of Florence to a Korean martyr - the first in Italy apart from the chapel of the Pontifical Korean College - is particularly emblematic because this is the year which the Holy Father has dedicated to the devotion to the Eucharist. Rev. Tal Su Jon as delegate of the Korean Bishops’ Conference, gave the address of introduction, expressing joy and gratitude of the Catholic Church in Korea in particular the Korean Catholic community in Italy, “for this proof of fraternal friendship which is a great honour for us”.
In his homily Cardinal Antonelli said that the icon of St Andrew Kim Daegon portrayed in a window of the church of S. Jacopo by Florentine artist Domenico Ricciarelli, is a reminder of the universal nature of the Church. Veneration of the image of a Korean Saint in a distant land underlines the need to be open to mission. Addressing the faithful present, Italian and Korean, Cardinal Antonelli said “the testimony of St Andrew Kim Daegon reminds us of the duty to live out the Gospel: the martyrs are blessed because they suffered for the name of Jesus and they are examples for a journey towards holiness”.
Father Andrea Kim Daegon martyred at the age of 25 in 1846 during one of many persecutions against the Catholic Church in Korea which in more than a hundred years led to the sacrifice of the lives of ten thousand baptised Catholics (a figure which some historians double) subject to cruel torture, decapitated, left to die in prison, drowned in rivers.
In the last two centuries the Church in Korea has lived a stage of progressive development: at the beginning of the third millennium the number of Catholics has grown to 4.5 million. Numerous young priests are sent to Rome to study at pontifical universities for degrees and doctorates. In 1995, one of them, Rev. Martino Kim was sent from the archdiocese of Seoul,as fidei donum, priest to the archdiocese of Florence: this was the first time that the Church in Korea sent a missionary to Italy. This was followed by the arrival of more diocesan priests and a few women religious Little Servants of the Holy Family who care for the sick in hospital and run a soup kitchen for the poor. The side chapel dedicated to Saint Andrew Kim Daegon represents a bridge between the archdiocese of Florence and the young Church in Korea in a symbolic embrace.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 4/2/2005 righe 38 parole 389)