Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Jung-geun Not Only Patriot But Saint?

The Seoul Diocese will begin the process to canonize An Jung-geun (1879-1910). This was made known at a press forum at the beginning of the month by the auxiliary bishop of Seoul. The long process of looking into the life of the patriot to see what his faith meant in his efforts for justice and peace will take time, but it should bring an appreciation of Patriot An to more Koreans. He will then take his rightful place in the Catholic Church's understanding of one of their very spiritual members.

In 1993, Cardinal Kim of Seoul made it clear that what An Jung-geun did in killing Ito could be seen as righteous self-defense. Cardinal Chong, speaking at a memorial Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of the patriot, emphasized the spirituality of the patriot: “Thomas An was a devoted Catholic and we cannot understand his life without his faith. That’s why we celebrate this Mass remembering his death."

China has always seen An as a patriot, believing the killing of Ito not a grudge killing but an effort to find peace. It is surprising how long it took Korea to understand the motivation of the patriot. His decision came only after much soul-searching, and was prompted by what he understood as his faith commitment to Jesus. Part of the reason for the long delay in appreciating Patriot An's actions was the Catholic Church's collaboration with the Japanese during those years.

His fight against imperialism was not only for Korea but for peace in East Asia. He was a true patriot, an independent freedom fighter who took upon himself the effort of doing something that others found hopeless. A great deal of information is available on what motivated him. He knew the stories of other fighters for independence in other countries, which prompted him to return to Korea and work for peace not only with Japan but throughout Asia. The canonization process that is beginning will help us to understand how difficult it is for a person to do what he feels is right when many in the society of his time did not have his vision, courage and commitment.


  1. Is there any progress in this? I cannot see any possibility for An to be canonized a saint, because he murdered someone for political reasons. Has the Church said anything new about this idea since this article was published?

  2. I believe you are correct in your evaluation. As far as I know there has been no further development.