THE MISSIONS OF ASIA
A bimonthly missionary letter to foster prayers
- History of the Asian Missions - Korea - Part 3 - Persecutions
of the Catholic Church (1864 - 1984)
II - A Missionary Story - Missionary
III - News from the Asian Missions
For the Missions of Asia:
One Million Hail Marys Daily
- History of the Asian Missions Korea
- Part 3 - Persecutions of the Catholic Church (1864 –
In January of 1864, King Ch’ol-jong passed away. 12 years
old King Kojong from a forgotten royal family succeeded to the
throne, surprising many people. His father, Lord Hungsongun,
became the Lord Regent (Taewongun ).
The Lord Regent was in trouble immediately after he came to power.
He didn’t know what to do about a Russian merchant ship requesting
trade. In order to repel the invasion of the Russian ship,
he was advised by some of his Catholic officials to contact Bishop
Berneux in order to open diplomatic relations with France for
its influence. Bishop Berneux didn’t want to be involved
in the political matter. He later wrote about the Lord Regent’s
offer. He said that, although he wanted to help, he could
not influence the Russians because their religion was different
from that of France. Bishop Berneux knew that the Lord Regent’s
seclusion policy would not change.
The great persecution of 1866 grew out of the Lord Regent’s frustration.
He was disappointed that he failed to use France in order to repel
Russia. Also, he needed a scapegoat to suppress nationwide
complaints. These are some of the reasons for the great
persecution of 1866.
At an early stage of the persecution, Ch’oe Hyong Peter and Chon
Chang-un John were arrested, and Bishop Berneux with Hong Bong-ju
Thomas was put in prison on February 23. Many French missionaries
and leading lay Catholics, including Nam Chong-sam, were arrested
in different parts of the country.
torture preceded martyrdom,
in order to discourage the other faithful.
The persecution of 1866 lasted for six years. Whenever foreign
ships appeared in the Korean ports, there were new outbreaks of
The exact number of the Catholics, who were martyred during the
long, cruel persecution of 1866, cannot be known. Those
investigated in Seoul alone were nearly 400, and half of them
were killed. According to a report of the Paris Foreign
Mission Society, 2,000 were martyred by September of 1868, and
8,000 suffered hardship and death by 1870, excluding those who
died of hunger. This persecution was more severe and cruel
than any persecutions in the world throughout the centuries.
During this great persecution, nine French missionaries and thousands
of lay Catholics were martyred within a period of several months.
The fact that more than 8,000 Catholics were killed during eight
years of persecutions indicates how cruel and severe the massacre
The Korea-France Treaty of 1886 put an end to the persecutions,
which had lasted for more than 100 years. But minor regional
persecutions continued even after that due to the traditional
hatred of Confucian antagonist. Some of these persecutions
were very severe. For example, in the persecution of 1901
in Cheju Island, more than 700 Catholics were murdered during
a period of just a few days.
During the Korean War, which started in 1950, many bishops, priests,
religious men and women, and lay Catholics were massacred and
expelled. The Church in North Korea remains underground.
The scene here represents the martyrdom of
Sts. Bishop Imbert, Fr. Maubant and Fr. Chastan.
Overcoming a history of long, cruel persecutions, the blood of
the Korean martyrs has become the seed of the faith, which is
now flourishing in this land. In South Korea alone an increasing
number of people are knocking at the door of the Catholic Church.
The main characteristic of the 200 years’ history of the Catholic
Church in Korea is the fact that the Church was founded by the
Korean lay people themselves; the lay Catholics have admirably
kept their faith, at times with no priests, despite the long,
cruel persecutions! The more Catholics were martyred, the
more people became Catholics. The activity of the laity
in the Church in Korea has always been phenomenal.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, thanks to a very active and organized
work of the Legion of Mary especially, the Catholic population
of South Korea rose from 300,000 to 3 million. It is a powerful
indication of the hunger of the people for the truth of the Catholic
Church, of the vanity of Confucianism, and of the fact that Our
Lord Jesus Christ need not be adapted, by inculturation, to these
people of Asia. "There is no other name under heaven given
to men by which we must be saved" (Acts IV, 12).
Source: Lives of the 103 Martyrs Saints of Korea, Seoul, 1984
Saints of Korea, canonized inn 1984.
It was the first ever ceremony of canonization held outside Rome.
(click to enlarge)
- A Missionary Story – Missionary at Home
Father Lebbe was beginning to reach the Chinese students of Paris.
A strong anti-Christian reaction was felt. A Chinese, called
Yi-Chen, showed himself particularly sectarian. As a co-founder
of an anti-Christian League, he published violent articles against
Fr. Lebbe and our holy Religion.
One day he came to see Fr. Lebbe and expressed to him all his
contempt. But he did not want people to say he was fighting
a cause he himself did not know. He wanted to know better
in order to fight better.
"Instruct me on the most powerful books of
"My friend, Catholicism is not something you
study alone. Let me make an honest proposition to you: would
you be willing to live with a priest who will expose to you our
doctrine? At one condition though: if you promise me to
cut all relations with Paris and to write no more articles…
Then, you can do as you wish."
Yi-Chen asked for one day of reflexion. "I accept", was
And he went to the writer of these lines.
Yi- Chen is polite, amiable, as are, by the way, all Chinese students.
Old ritualistic traditions prevent them from getting angry.
For months, I tried to convert him. In vain. He would
listen to my explanations and, the lesson over, would retire into
his room, alone, without friends, reading continuously.
At that time, I had in my parish a real little saint of 14 years
old. She had an incurable illness and was suffering horribly,
but what a grandeur in her suffering!
One day, while visiting her, I asked her collaboration for the
work of Fr. Lebbe.
- You will offer all your sufferings for the conversion of Yi-Chen.
You will be happy to suffer. You will even ask Our Dear
Lord to suffer more for him.
I can still see her, listening to me, a tear of joy shining in
On each of my subsequent visits, she would always ask for news.
"Is he not yet converted?" Would she say smartly, "I am
getting tired of suffering!"
Or else: "I am annoyed! I have not suffered this week.
I haven’t been able to do anything for your friend."
And weeks went by.
One Saturday, coming back from a trip, in the night of October
21-22, 1922, what was my surprise to find Yi-Chen waiting for
"Good evening! What is going on?
How come you’re are still awake?"
"I want to talk to you."
As I asked him why, Yi-Chen began to give me a wonderful explanation
of his desire to call God "My Father", to call Our Lord "My Brother"
and to taste the presence of God within him.
"And I feel in me an irresistible force telling
me I must be a Christian."
I could only answer in the affirmative!
Finding myself alone. I thanked God and was asking myself:
But where does this ordinary grace come from?
It was 11:45 p.m.
"Oh! I bet ‘she’ is dying!"
And a little bit as a challenge, I wrote: ‘11:45 p.m. Martha dies.’
In fact, the following morning, I learned that having been anointed
by my colleague, she had died at 11:40 p.m.!
Her mother confided to me:
"All day long, she asked me to remind her of
the intentions of her sufferings."
Yi Chen was baptized. Wonderful Christian he is playing
a great role in his country. He is a true apostle.
I know that he brought to China Martha’s picture and that he prays
before it as before a Saint.
From: Annales de la Propagation de la Foi, Quebec, Jan.-Feb.
1938, pp. 26-29.
– News from the Asian Missions
*Sister Mary Joseph, the first Korean Sister of the Society of
St Pius X, who is now being trained in Minnesota, USA, made her
first vows last Quasimodo Sunday, April 19.
*We have another Korean Sister who is a novice in the nursing
congregation of Le Rafflay, in France, Sister Marie François.
*Next June 21, in Winona, USA, Rev. Mr. Carl Sulzen will receive
the grace of the Sacred Priesthood alongside with another deacon.
Rev. Mr. Sulzen is a full Korean by blood although American by
nationality. Hopefully he will be able to visit Korea one
Let us not forget them in our prayers.
The Easter Ceremonies brought an extra 20 people to our
chapel in Seoul, which was a 50% increase!
Fr. Onoda has written an article against Medjugorje which
was translated in Korean. The faithful brought it to the
publisher of a Medjugorje magazine who has been so impressed by
the depth of its content that now he wants to see to author of
the ‘disturbing’ article! Who knows, he might cease the
publication of this false apparition! Catholics of Korea
are falling into ‘acute apparitionism’ (multiplicity of visionaries
and messages) these days as the Shepherds are not giving to their
flock the lead expected from them.
To try to reach the young people as well as the more educated
milieu, the District of Asia has now opened a website ‘SSPXAsia’
through which we will be able, among other goals, to make available
to the public at large hundreds of pages of Korean translations
of articles, sermons, studies concerning Catholic Tradition, the
battle for the Mass, the work of Archbishop Lefebvre and of his
Society of St Pius X. Another goal of this project is to
make available in all the major– or as many as possible- Asian
languages these same documents
News from Singapore:
on May 29th, the District Superior, Fr. Couture, will be giving
a public slide presentation on the Holy Shroud of Turin.
About 200 to 300 are expected to attend.
Couture giving a slide presentation to the faithful of Seoul
on the Holy Shroud of Turin.