SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis sent a message today to Church leaders in South Korea praising their decision to proclaim September as the “Month of Martyrs.”
“The Holy Father was pleased to learn that the Archdiocese of Seoul has proclaimed the month of September 2013 the ‘Month of Martyrs’ in commemoration of those who laid down their lives for the Gospel in Korea,” said an Aug. 29 statement from the Vatican.
“His Holiness trusts that all who participate in pilgrimages during this month, aided by the prayers and example of the martyrs, will deepen their communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life,” stated the message, which was signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In his remarks to the archbishop of Seoul, Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the Pope noted that he wishes the pilgrims to deepen their communion with Jesus, “so we might share in the inestimable gift of eternal life.”
The Holy Father added that he “prays that this occasion may be an opportunity for pilgrims to rekindle the faith in their hearts and so commit themselves more fully to the urgent task of evangelization.”
“Entrusting all the pilgrims to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the prayers of the martyrs of Korea, His Holiness willingly imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in Our Lord,” Pope Francis said.
The feast day of the Korean martyrs is Sept. 20. Approximately 8,000 Catholics were killed during the 1800s for refusing to deny Christ in the country.
Full persecution began in 1839, during which many European priests were killed. Many seminarians were forced to leave the country and receive formation in Macau, China.
The first native priest, Father Andrew Kim Taegon, was assassinated in 1846, a year after he returned to Korea. Blessed John Paul II canonized 103 of the martyrs in May 1984.