Beatification Mass of Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 Companions
# Before the Beatification Mass
In August 16, volunteers and believers gathered in Guanghwamun Square early in the morning. The entrances to the Mass officially started at 4 am, but those who used buses and trains nationwide in order to come to the venue all through the night waited since one hour before the entering started. However, they didn’t look tired or frustrated at all.
Bae Bo-ram (Lucia, aged 27) who studies vocal music in Germany said, “I came back to Korea with purpose to meet the Pope and I’ve been waiting since 2 A.M. in the morning. I am very happy and excited to meet him in person”. Ki Bum-suk (Eleutherius, aged 55) from Unnamdong Parish of Gwangju Archdiocese said, “Although I am disappointed that my seat was arranged in the farthest area from the Alter, I am content with breathing in the same space with the Pope.”
Despite the darkness before dawn, the entrance process to Gwanghwhamun Square went very smoothly. The Catholic believers chatted quietly and prayed in their designated seats before the Mass, after entering the identification and security check. Numerous people not able to apply for this event beforehand got filled in the vicinities of Guanghwum Square.
As it dawned at 5: 30 AM, a day breaks around Gwanghwamun, the 4.6 meter height crucifix being mounted up over 8 meters high on the altar caught people’s eyes. On the altar’s left was Our Lady of Korean Apostles Statue in Korean traditional costume. The low alter compared to the magnitude of the entire space for the Mass has been established in accordance to the Pope’s wish to make eye contact with the people.
The entering of the participants was completed by seven in the morning. The believers, breathing fresh morning air of a fine day while waiting for the Mass, said, “The weather helps the Beatification Mass, certainly it is our Pope Francis,” thinking of the previous rain forecast. After listening to the piano performance by pianist Baek Gun-woo (Joeseph-Maria), the believers prayed rosary together in one voice at 8:30 AM.
Before the Beatification Mass, the Pope visited Seosomun Holy Ground and prayed there, a place where 27 among the 124 to be beatified on that day were martyred. The Pope devoted flowers at the Martyr Memorial tower and prayed for one minute, lowering his head. He headed to the place for Beatification Mass after blessing the 1,000 attendees welcoming the Pope at Seosomun.
He transferred to an open topped car at Seoul City Hall Square and met with the Catholic believers, circling around the Gwanghwamun Square twice for thirty minutes. He made sign of the cross and blessed the people, his unique bright smile on his face throughout the time. The security guard brought babies to the Pope and the Pope gave imposition with his hand to the babies. As soon as they noticed the Pope after waiting four to five hours, the Catholic believers stood up immediately. They gave warm welcome to the Pope, shouting “Viva Papa” and “Francisco”.
By the time when the Pope was passing by the families of Sewol Ferry victims, he had the car stop and stepped out from the car himself. He gave blessings to them and shared the deep sorrow of the families. Then he received a letter from the beavered Kim Young-ho, who lost his daughter in Sewol ferry, and put it in his pocket. Kim straightened the yellow ribbon badge on the Pope’s robe and pleaded, “Please pray that this kind of disaster would not happen again in Korea.”
The Mass was live broadcasted through PBC TV, radio and youtube worldwide
# Scene the Beatification
“With our apostolic authority, we decree that the Venerable Servants of God Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions, are hereafter called the Blessed, and in accordance with places and ways determined by the related norms, the day of their feast is celebrated on 29th of May every year.”
On August 16 at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, there was the Pope’s proclamation of Beatification for Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions. At the very moment the proud first generation martyrs are proclaimed as Blessed, the official Portrait of 124 Martyrs was unveiled and chants sung by choir was echoed around Gwanghwamun.
With this, Korean Church has got the opportunities to promote new evangelization in the 21st century and to become a leader of Asian evangelization. While the prior Beatification of 103 martyrs was mainly prepared by Society of Paris Foreign Missions, this Beatification of 124 martyrs is meaningful in that the Korean Church took the initiative on this Beatification for those who should have been beatified before the 103 martyrs and took full responsibility as their descendants. A beatification presided by the Pope is very unusual and it is glorious to Korean Church.
At Gwanghwamun Square, the Beatification Mass of 124 martyrs was held by the Pope in Latin and believers responded in Korean. It took about two hours and there were 200,000 people around Gwanghwamun.
In the Pope’s homily, the Pope said “I celebrate the victory in Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 Companions. Their names now stand alongside those of the holy martyrs Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Paul Chong Ha-Sang and companions”
Also, he said “Korean Church was grown by martyrs’ sacrifice.” And he urged us to protect the heritages of the faith and charity from ancestors. Then, he mentioned, “If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death. Finally, you can understand the death of ancestors for freedom and joy if you believe and follow the Word of God, following roles of martyrs.”
His Eminence Cardinal Yeom Soo-Jung Andrew said in his gratitude, “I think that the Beatification of today will be an occasion for not only the Korean Catholics but also the entire Korean people and all the other people of Asia to unite in harmony by sharing the universal brotherhood that the martyrs showed us.” He further said that the Korean Church will become further evangelized and become the Church that serves the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized by making them feel the joy of the Gospel, so that the blood of martyrs will not be in vain.
The Pope also went to Seosomun Holy Ground, the biggest martyrs’ site, in terms of the martyr’s number, in Korean Church, to pray and show respects to martyrs before the Beatification Mass. Then, he had a special time with the attendees while going around Gwanghwamun Square in an open topped car after arriving at Daehanmun, Deoksugung Palace, transferring to the vehicle therein.
Homily Summary of His Holiness Pope Francis, Mass for the Beatification of Korean Martyrs
Today we celebrate this victory in Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions. All of them lived and died for Christ, and now they reign with Him in joy and in glory.
The victory of the martyrs and their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which have grown with their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.
We, living today, often find our faith being challenged by the world, and in countless ways we are asked to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age. Yet the martyrs call us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to Him and His eternal Kingdom. They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.
The examples of the martyrs also teach us the importance of charity in the life of faith. It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day. Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve Him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.
If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at His word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death.
Today is a day of great rejoicing for all Koreans. The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of the authentic human values in this country and in the entire world.