Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - "The first evangelizers of the 'Land of the Morning Calm' were lay people and scholars who learned Christian doctrine without the help of foreign missionaries". They were people who "discovered the faith in the context of their administrative and academic work, a testimony to the public aspect that is deeply rooted in the life of Christ's disciples in Korea." A testimony that often reached “the point of martyrdom.” These aspects were highlighted by the Secretary for Relations with States at the Vatican Secretariat of State, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, during the Mass he celebrated yesterday, November 21, at the Shrine of Seosomun, as part of his visit to South Korea (November 20-23) on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and South Korea. Seosomun Shrine is of historical significance as a memorial to the first Korean martyrs, 103 of whom were canonized on May 6, 1984 in Korea by John Paul II. The mass in the shrine of Seosomun was therefore also a reminder of the sacrifices made by these martyrs and of the resilience of the Korean Catholic community. In his homily, Bishop Gallagher highlighted the rich history of the Korean Catholic community, including its contribution to the civic, social and holistic well-being of the nation. The Eucharistic celebration was attended by Archbishop of Seoul Peter Soon-taek Chung, and President of the Korean Episcopal Conference and Bishop of Suwon, Matthias Yong-hoon Ri, as well as representatives of civil authorities, priests, religious and faithful of the ecclesial community. "The hard-working and dynamic character that characterizes the Korean Catholic community," added Archbishop Gallagher, "is a valuable resource that profoundly shapes lives through associations, charities and educational institutions. Let us preserve this rich heritage and carry on the legacy of those who who, moved by a deep Catholic faith, laid the foundation for a lasting commitment to society." Recalling the commemoration of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, Archbishop Gallagher said: "Mary's consecration to the Lord opened access to grace for all people and gave birth to a new community of brothers and sisters in Christ: so has the faith and devotion of each one Christians have the potential to bear rich fruit for the entire human family.” The service was a "testimony of enduring friendship and cooperation between the Holy See and South Korea" and offered "a unique moment of reflection and unity in which 60 years of shared values and mutual respect were celebrated," said a statement of the Archdiocese of Seoul, which recalls that the number 60 has a special meaning in Korean culture and signifies "the transition to a new cycle of life and a phase of greater abundance." In the previous days, the Secretary for Relations with States had spoken at a study symposium in Seoul, where he stressed that diplomatic work was aimed at achieving stability, security and peace, "but a peace that is not just a balance of forces but founded on justice".
In the sixty-year history of relations between Korea and the Holy See, there have been three apostolic journeys of popes to South Korea. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1984 and 1989 and Pope Francis in 2014, while Korean heads of state visited the Vatican: President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and President Moon Jae-in in 2018 and 2021, demonstrating the strength of mutual relations. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/11/2023)