An unprecedented Korean mass at St. Peter’s Basilica



His appointment at the head of the Congregation for the Clergy, on June 11, marked a new step in the internationalization of the Roman Curia, while Italians have always been omnipresent in the Vatican. At 69, Bishop Lazare You Heung-sik was then the first Korean to head a dicastery (ministry) of the Curia.

On Saturday August 21, this bishop from the end of the world, who became Catholic at the age of 16, presided over his first public ceremony in Rome. Mass was celebrated in Korean, in St. Peter’s Basilica, in front of a hundred people including the South Korean Ambassador to the Holy See.

Jubilee year for the Korean Church

This Mass commemorated an essential figure for the Korean Church: Saint André Kim, the first Korean priest, born August 21, 1821 and martyred in 1846. The bicentenary of his birth also marks a jubilee year for Catholics of this Asian country, of which they now represent a little more than 10% of the population (about 5 million faithful).

With him were commemorated, Saturday, in Rome, the first Christians of Korea, victims of persecution between 1791 and 1866. John Paul II did not canonize only Father André Kim, in 1984, but also 102 others. martyrs, celebrated on September 20.

Towards a trip to North Korea?

Pope Francis beatified 124 more in the summer of 2014 at Gwanghwamun Square in the heart of Seoul. From August 13 to 18, he made his first apostolic trip to Asia by going to South Korea.

He had also met Bishop Lazare You Heung-sik, now prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, for a long time. Very invested in the discussions of inter-Korean reconciliation, he had pleaded, during the Synod on the family in 2018, for a possible visit of the Pope to North Korea. It would be according to him “A gigantic step for a pacified Korean peninsula”.

In October 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent the Pope a surprising invitation to visit the north of the peninsula, presumably aimed at giving him an image “Man of peace” to the international community.

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