Bishop predicts it will be at least 10 years before they are officially recognized
Photo: Pope Francis celebrates the beatification Mass of 124 Korean martyrs in Seoul in 2014. Another 213 Korean martyrs are now on course toward beatification. (Paul Haring / CNS)
The first Bishop of Pyongyang, as well as an American born-bishop and numerous priests and laity, are among 213 individuals who could be beatified and advanced on the process to sainthood under a process begun in South Korea.
Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejon predicted it will take at least 10 years before any beatification or canonization, “but for our people, these people are already holy.”
The bishop heads the Korean bishops’ committee considering the beatifications. He told Asia News that important parts of the path to beatification are the Catholic faithful’s prayer and “desire to follow the spirit of the martyrs.”
One group under consideration for beatification includes Servant of God Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho and 80 companions, ranging from martyrs of the 1901 Jeju massacre that killed about 300 Catholics, to victims of persecution after the post-Second World War division of Korea.
Bishop Hong, born in 1906, was ordained a priest in 1933 under Japanese occupation and in 1944 was named the first native Bishop of Pyongyang . With the rise of communism, he was imprisoned in 1949 and is believed to have died in a concentration camp in North Korea.
Bishop Patrick James Byrne, a native of Washington, D.C., is also among the group. The Maryknoll missionary served in Korea and Japan before the Second World War and was named the first apostolic delegate to Korea.
Ordained a bishop in 1949, he was arrested a year later by communists and put on trial. With other priests he was put on forced marches. He died during a four-month-long forced march.
Altogether the group associated with Bishop Hong includes two bishops, 48 priests, three seminarians, seven religious sisters, and 21 lay people.
The second group, Servant of God John Baptist Yi Byeok and his 132 companions, were all lay people killed for their faith between 1785 and 1879. Yi was from a family of court dignitaries who under the Joseon dynasty converted to Catholicism and helped evangelize Korea. He was martyred at the age of 33.