Beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 martyr companions at the Gwanghwamun Gate recently was a memorable day for our Christians. An essay in the Catholic Times reflects on the meaning of what happened on that day: Korean history and Catholic history came together. Before we lose the enthusiasm, the essayist wants us to reflect on three points that arise from the beatification.
Blessed Paul Yun was
the first one on the list of martyrs beatified that day. Because of a
decree that came from the bishop of Beijing, Blessed Paul burned the
ancestral tablet and when his mother died he performed the funeral
according to the Catholic rite instead of the Confucian rite.
Confucianism, the writer reminds us, is still very strong in Korea. If
one should destroy the ancestral tablets even in the 21st century there
would be a lot of finger pointing. Paul had passed the first exam for
public office, was the son of a noble family and caused great scandal.
He was a person different from that of his age.
tried cajoling and force to change his thinking, but to no avail; he
was martyred in 1791.The most prominent among those beatified on August
Paul Yun Ji-chung, became Korea's first Catholic martyr when he was
executed. Ordinary citizens would see these Catholics as
persons without respect for parents and king: lack of loyalty and filial
piety and worthy of death; they were against the basic values of
Secondly we see the situation of Catholicism
change in a short period of time. From being a bunch of depraved
individuals to dignified members of society. Since the values of
politics and religion are different there has been pressure before and
after on religion. During the Chosen dynasty, Buddhism was oppressed;
in this modern world we have had religious demonstrations and signs of
dissatisfaction. Catholicism for over a hundred years was a persecuted
community that is today accepted. We would not find the equivalent of
such a quick change in Korean history.
On the day of
the beatification the Christians gathered in the center of Seoul in the
Gwanghawmun plaza where at the time of the persecution their
death was decided and taken to Seosomun where they were executed. Did
any of the children of the martyrs ever think that their ancestors
would be honored some two hundred years later in the very place they
were condemned to die?
Thirdly we have the timely
remarks of the pope on this occasion. These early martyrs formed a
beautiful community of equality in a time where
we had droughts, famine, and corrupt officials. Social position and
discrimination between men and women was a part of society. These early
Christians challenged the culture and lived the Gospel life of equality.
pope reminded us of these beginnings. Lay people took the
initiative and began the community of faith. With their intelligence,
faith and curiosity they took pride in their efforts, and the pope asked
that we don't forget this message of equality from the early Church.
conclusion the writer wants to bring to our attention the words from
the government documents from the time of the persecution. During the
interrogation of the martyrs in 1801 on three different occasions we have
them saying that there will be a Church built on the grave of Yun
Ji-chung. These are the prophetic words that we the descendents of the
martyrs need to examine.