Therese Park

Canonization Highlights history of Catholic Church in Korea

On April 27, two previous popes — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II — will be canonized at the same time, by the two living popes — the retired Pope Benedictine XVI and Pope Francis.
All I know about Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963 while I was still in Korea, is that he was one of the authors of Second Vatican Council who changed the doctrines of the ancient Church to what we know today. It was during his papacy that the solemn Latin Mass was changed to every language spoken by church-goers around the world.
On the other hand, I feel I’m somewhat connected to Pope John Paul II for three reasons: He was the only pope who visited South Korea (in 1984, to canonize 103 of 10,000 Korean martyrs); my brother, Father Jean Sye, who studied in Rome in mid 1960s and earned a Doctor of Divinity degree at Pontifical Gregorian University, accompanied the pope during his 5-day visit; and my great-great-grandfather’s two brothers were among 10,000 martyred.
On May 6, 1984, the Holy Father delivered this message during the canonization ceremony along the Han River, which had witnessed the bloodshed of early Korean Catholics some 150 years ago:
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ. The splendid flowering of the Church in Korea today is indeed the fruit of the heroic witness of the martyrs. Even today, their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the North of this tragically divided land.”
Unlike the Church in most other countries, the Korean Catholic Church was founded by a lay person, scholar Sung Huhn Lee, who was a member of a Korean delegation to China and later was baptized by the French priest Alexander Gouvea. Korea was late in receiving Western civilization due to the Confucian system that, among other things, discouraged marriages between natives and foreigners. China, on the other hand, received Christianity two centuries earlier, through the work of Italian Jesuits.
The Korean monarch considered Catholicism to be “Western thoughts” and feared that westerners would eventually disturb the country’s class system.
Lee conducted prayer meetings and worship services suggested in the writings of one of the Jesuits who brought Christianity to China. At first, it was mostly scholars and their family who attended, but as the good news that God created all men and women equal spread among the middle and low classes, the number of attendees multiplied.
The monarch didn't like the reports that people were gathering to discuss “Western thoughts,” challenging the emperor’s paramount authority. At once, all worship services and meetings were prohibited by law.
Instead of diminishing, the number of Catholics increased. The leaders of the Church sent a secret envoy to China to plead for a priest.
Chinese Father Moon-mo Chu arrived in Korea in 1795, helped by Korean Catholics. By now the Catholics numbered more than 4,000. Before he was martyred during the first persecution in 1801, along with hundreds of Koreans, Father Chu expanded the membership to more than 10,000.
Church leaders again sent secret messengers to China and the Vatican, this time to report the persecution and ask for priests. In 1831, Pope Gregory XVI officially recognized the Korean Church, and commissioned the Paris Foreign Mission Society to tend the Korean flock.
Three French missionary priests who had previously served in China, entered Korea in 1836, hiding their European appearances in loosely fitting Korean mourners’ garbs, but they lasted only three years. During the second persecution in 1839, they, too, were captured along with Koreans and perished. Still, more French missionaries arrived. The last and most virulent persecution hit believers in 1866, killing more than 10,000 Catholics, including seven French priests and three bishops.
In most cases, Catholics were beheaded on a cliff overlooking the Han River and their remains were thrown into the water, but some were starved to death and others were suffocated with water-soaked rice paper pressed on their faces. The surviving Catholics scattered to remote mountains, hiding their identities, and became potters, tobacco growers and servants.
In 1886, a treaty with the French government guaranteed the status of French missionaries, and the persecution over 80 years finally ended.
The Vatican’s recent announcement that Pope Francis will beatify 124 Korean martyrs in Seoul on Aug. 16 causes me to want to go home again.

The Kansas City Star
"Heartland Honor Flight is all about showing our gratitude to those who fought for our country's freedom," the president John Doole says.
During the Korean War, long segregation in the U.S. military ended.
"To win, you must know your enemy," wrote Chinese Ancient General Sun-Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
...their beloved country in whose honor they defended my helpless homeland in the Far East six decades ago has become my own beloved motherland.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, their pastor is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784," Pope John Paul II said during the canonization of 103 Korean Martyrs in 1984. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ..."
During the trip to Korea together, our mother-daughter roles were reversed. My daughter seemed to think that I needed her care, not the other way around.
The Kansas City Philharmonic enriched the lives of many during its 49 years.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Messages on Violence
A Korean Grandma and her American Grandkids
Average people made the world we live in today.
Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing…for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
Pilgrims are everywhere here on the square of the Basilica of Our Lady, some are walking on their knees and some are kneeling at the glass-walled Chapel of Apparition where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Woodcarvers find fun, therapy and friendship
Behind a tough cookie, there's a culture that nourished her soul
Not biting is a sign of appreciation
After Tucsan shooting rampage
Without a healthy brain, one cannot live a healthy life
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "In War, there is no substitute for victory."
Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues but the parent of all others.
Our home became a church when homeless priests and nuns moved in with us.
Victor Hugo's view of his old age
Forgetfulness comes with aging
Learning is for all ages.
Mixture of feelings about seeing Amercans' departure from my country Korea
Foreigner's view of today's China
The "Wake up call" isn't only for Chinese parents but for all American parents.
The Korean War isn't "Forgotten"
I once had compassion for all caged birds. But since I became a bird-owner, my opinion about them has changed.
South Korea today gives thanks to all American troops who fought to preserve its peace at the cost of their lives.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit South Korea in 1984--to canonize 103 Korean martyrs
The seeds of the Church is the blood of the martyrs.
Column/ Kansas City Star
Father Emil Kapaun: recipient of Medal or Honor 2013
The U.S. government purchased Alaska in 1867 for only $7.2 million dollars from Russia, that includes 500 million acres of land with 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for bears, moose, mountain sheep and more.
The Best Times
He liberated music from a cloistered form set by earlier composers...
The racial discrimination the white American inflicted upon their black neighbors.
Magazine Article
Traditional Chinese medical doctors have been using bird-nests for centuries to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, to rejuvenate skin, and to boost energy for both young and old.
It takes courage to deal with the human condition called "aging."
Feature article
Inchon Landing was one of the most successful operations in modern military history.
Magazine Articles
Korean War Prisoner-of War Story