“May those who are doing all they can for reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula continue with renewed dedication to being good artisans of peace”. Pope Francis expressed this hope, while “encouraging everyone to a respectful and constructive dialogue for an ever brighter future”, in a message to Rome’s Korean community, who gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Saturday afternoon, 21 August, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the country’s first Cath-o-lic priest, who was martyred in 1846 and canonized by John Paul II in 1984 in Seoul.
Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, who was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy by Pope Francis on 11 June 2021, presided the Korean language rite at the Altar of the Chair. The Mass was concelebrated by some 30 priests, in the presence of about 70 members of the faithful, including religious and lay people.
Addressing the “faithful of our beloved South Korea”, the Pontiff recalled the holy priest as “an exemplary witness of heroic faith and a tireless apostle of evangelization in difficult times, marked by persecution and suffering” for the Korean people. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the message continues, “along with his Companions, demonstrated with joyful hope that good always prevails, because God’s love overcomes hatred”. After all, Francis observed, bringing his reflection up to date, “even today, in the face of so many manifestations of evil which disfigure the beautiful face of mankind, created in the image and likeness of God, we need to rediscover the importance of the mission of every baptized individual, who is called to be a worker of peace and hope everywhere, ready, like the Good Samaritan, to bend down to the wounds of those who wish for love, help or simply a fraternal gaze”. In this regard, the Pope took the opportunity “to offer heartfelt thanks to the entire Korean ecclesial community for its great generosity in supporting the anti-Covid-19 vaccination cam-paign in favour of poorer countries. Your sensitivity and attention to the weakest members of the Body of Christ”, Francis remarked, “en-cour-ages people to put themselves at the service of others and, at the same time, represents a strong invitation for a greater commitment in the cause of the least”.
Lastly, he shared his hopes for reconciliation for the Korean nation: “As I said in the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti”, he concluded, citing paragraph 232, “there is no end to the building of a country’s social peace; rather, it is ‘an open-ended endeavour, a never-end-ing task that demands the commitment of everyone’”.
References to the pandemic and to Pope Bergoglio’s Encyclical were also included in the Archbishop Prefect’s homily. Evangelical fraternity, he explained, “is medicine to heal a world sick with indifference and to overcome the crisis brought on by the pandemic. But also a remedy to the suffering on the world stage: from the terrible earthquake in Haiti, to the painful situation in Afghanistan, to Myanmar”.
Commenting on the readings offered in the liturgy (Ez 24:11-26 and Jn 10:11-16), the Korean prelate reconstructed events in the life of Saint Andrew Kim, whose family included “two saints, two blessed and six martyrs, in the course of four generations”; a “family particularly blessed by the Lord”, he observed, “and very rare even in the history of the universal Church”.
“Through his brief earthly life of only 25 years and 26 days, he showed the way that people are called to travel; indeed, despite the social environment ruled by the hierarchical caste system of Confucianism, our holy priest was a man whose life fully reflected his faith”, the Archbishop said.