St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-46) was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea. (Image: YouTube)

Jan 8 2021

Volume marks the 200th birth anniversary of the country’s most popular martyred saint

The Korean Institute of Church History has published a book about St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon to mark the 200th birth anniversary of the country’s most popular martyred saint.

Father Cho Han-geon, president of the institute, recently launched Fr. Andrew Kim Tae-gon’s Letters as part of the commemoration program during the jubilee year.

The 392-page volume is the first fruit of a revised work that reflects new research carried out over 25 years for the biography of St. Andrew Kim published in 1996 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his martyrdom.

The institute decided to revise the three-volume biography for the saint’s 200th birth anniversary.

The Church kicked off year-long anniversary celebrations at the Cathedral Church of Seoul on Nov. 29.

The new book is a collection of materials with exhaustive and translated versions of 19 of the 21 letters written by the saint to his father, a teacher and a local government official.

Some of the letters were composed in Latin and French, which were translated by Cardinal Jeong Jin-seok, former archbishop of Seoul, Monsignor Choi Seok-woo and late priests Father Choi Seung-ryong and Father Bae Se-young.

In this revised edition, the existing errors and Chinese characters have been corrected based on the latest research, and names of places were added and comments were supplemented. The translated and post-extracted texts have been organized separately for better and easy understanding of readers.

Besides the book, the institute has also plans to revise and publish more biographical material on St. Andrew Kim as well as his lifetime activities, achievements, arrest and martyrdom.

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul lauded the publication of the saint’s letters and encouraged clergy, religious and laypeople to find spiritual strength reading them.

“Fr. Kim Taegon’s letters bravely testify to his faith, and as a priest and missionary he lived like a flame and lived with the spirit and breath of God’s call,” Cardinal Yeom said. “It is essential for the spiritual renewal of all the clergy, religious and believers in the Korean Church.”

Father Cho hailed the senior priests for their patience and hard work behind the venture.

“While preparing for the revised edition, I was able to take a glimpse of the efforts of the senior priests who relied on a black and white copy and a magnifying glass to read and translate small letters during the publication of the first edition. I appreciate their dedicated work,” he said.

St. Andrew Kim (1821-46) was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea.

According to Franciscan media, he was the son of Christian converts. Following his baptism at the age of 15, he traveled to a seminary in Macau, China, and returned to his homeland after six years through Manchuria. The same year, he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai where he was ordained a priest.

Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by the sea route to elude border patrols. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul.

The saint’s father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839. Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle, also died in 1839 at age 45.

In 1984, during his visit to South Korea, Pope John Paul II canonized 103 martyrs including Andrew Kim, Ignatius Kim, Paul Chong and seven French missionaries who had been martyred in the 19th century. 

South Korea has about 5.6 million Catholics in a population of about 51 million. – UCANews