SOUTH KOREA/VATICAN - Official blessing on September 16th: Statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegon placed in a niche on the outside of St. Peter's Basilica

Saturday, 9 September 2023 saints   local churches  

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - A marble statue of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-1846), the first priest and martyr of Korea, will be placed in an external niche of Saint Peter's Basilica and blessed on September 16th, the anniversary of St. Andrew's death. The initiative, supported and promoted by the Korean Bishops' Conference, came about following the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the saint's birth and will bring together in Rome a large delegation of more than 300 members of the Korean Church, including bishops, priests, nuns and lay people, who are gathering in the Vatican for this occasion. The Korean faithful will be received by Pope Francis for a private audience on the morning of September 16th. "We were very happy that Pope Francis accepted our proposal. It is a great honor for our Korean Church, which is very connected to the figure of this saint. We believe and hope that he will always be appreciated and his intercession invoked by the faithful from all over the world", the former Bishop of Daejeon (South Korea) and current Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Clergy, Cardinal Lazarus Heung-sik You, told Fides. He will preside over Holy Mass, which will be celebrated in Korean at St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, September 16, at 3 p.m., with the assembly of the faithful who have arrived from Korea. At 4.30 p.m., the ceremonial blessing and unveiling of the statue of the Korean saint will take place with Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, the Archpriest of the Basilica. The Carrara marble statue, almost four meters high and weighing about six tons, was created by the Korean sculptor Han Jin-Sub, who collaborated with the Italian artist Nicolas Stagetti in the town of Pietrasanta in Versilia, known as the "international capital of sculpture". "After receiving the assignment from the Holy See - said Han Jin-Sub - I looked for information to create the image. I presented several sketches and the Holy See chose the version in which Saint Andrew is shown with open arms, in traditional Korean costume". Of the total number of Korean martyrs, estimated at about ten thousand, the martyrdom of 103 believers is known and documented, the first of whom was Andrew Kim Taegon. Andrew Kim was born in 1821 to a family of Christian converts and was baptized at the age of 15. He studied at the seminary in Macao and was ordained a priest in 1845, making him Korea's first native Catholic priest. During the reign of the loyal Joseon Dynasty, he was arrested and persecuted for his evangelization efforts and was executed by beheading on September 16, 1846, at the age of 25. Pope John Paul II canonized a total of 103 Korean martyrs, including Andrew Kim Taegon, during his visit to South Korea in 1984. Among the Korean martyrs are ten French missionaries from the Society of Foreign Missions in Paris (MEP). Last May 24, in the catechesis of the General Audience, with which he resumed the cycle of exemplary witnesses who teach apostolic zeal, Pope Francis said: "Let us look at Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, a martyr and Korea’s first priest. But, the evangelisation of Korea was done by the laity! It was the baptized laity who transmitted the faith. There were no priests because they had none. They came later, so the first evangelisation was done by the laity. Would we be capable of something like that? About 200 years ago, the Korean land was the scene of a very severe persecution: Christians were persecuted and annihilated. At that time, believing in Jesus Christ in Korea meant being ready to bear witness unto death." "The Christian is by nature one who preaches and bears witness to Jesus. Saint Andrew Kim and other Korean believers have demonstrated that witnessing to the Gospel in times of persecution can bear much fruit for the faith", the Pope said. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/9/2023)