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Statue of Korea's first Catholic priest officially unveiled in Vatican

By Yonhap

Published : Sept. 17, 2023 - 09:09

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A statue of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean-born Catholic priest is unveiled at the Vatican, Saturday. (AP-Yonhap) A statue of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean-born Catholic priest is unveiled at the Vatican, Saturday. (AP-Yonhap)

A statue of Korea's first Catholic priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-1846), was officially unveiled at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican during a Mass on Saturday, the anniversary of his martyrdom.

The 3.8 meter-high marble statue was erected at a niche of St. Peter's Basilica, making it the first Asian saint's statue to be installed at the universal headquarters of the Catholic Church.

Created by Korean sculptor Han Jin-sub, the statue wears a traditional Korean hat, called "gat," and a traditional men's outfit called "dopo" in Korean.

Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy of the Holy See, blessed its installation in a Mass, which was attended by the members of the Korean Church delegation, including Bishop Mathias Ri Long-hoon and Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.

Kang Seung-kyoo, a senior presidential secretary for civil society, also attended the Mass in the capacity of President Yoon Suk Yeol's special envoy.

"I expect and pray that young people around the world will emulate the life of the priest, Kim Tae-gon who did not lose hope and courage in the face of any difficulties though he had lived a short life of 25 years," You said in the Mass.

You cast the installation of the statue as yet another "astonishing and touching" moment that came after Seoul was chosen last month as the host of the 2027 World Youth Day, a global Catholic Church event.

You proposed the initiative to Francis Pope in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the martyr's birth in 2021, and the Korean Bishops' Conference funded the project.

Born to a family of Christian converts, Kim was baptized at the age of 15 and soon after left for Macao under Portuguese rule to enter a seminary there. He was ordained a priest in China in 1845 and returned to his homeland for evangelization.

In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul at the Han River.

Kim was canonized and made a saint with 102 other martyrs by Pope John Paul II in 1984.

In 2021, UNESCO celebrated the 200th anniversary of the martyr's birth and selected him as a world monument. (Yonhap)