The field of martyrs of Haemi, South Korea, has become the second Korean site to be established as an international pilgrimage site by the Vatican, thus joining such high places of Christian spirituality as Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela.
The Haemi Shrine is located in Seosan Municipality, South Chungcheong Province, about 280 kilometers south of the capital Seoul. Pope Francis visited there on August 17, 2014 during his trip to South Korea.
It was there between 1866 and 1882, during the reign of the emperors from the Joseon Dynasty, that two thousand Catholics were imprisoned, tortured, and buried alive in hatred of the Faith.
March 1, 2021 was a day of rejoicing in the Diocese of Daejon. That morning, Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik announced that the Holy See had just established Haemi as an international pilgrimage site.
An announcement that fell on the same day the Korean Catholic Church celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Fr. Thomas Choe Yang-eop.
This priest, born on March 1, 1821, a figure in the South Korean Catholic clergy, is revered for relentlessly traversing his country, plagued by persecution, in order to administer the sacraments secretly to the faithful, until he contracted typhoid fever which would cause his death in 1861.
Thanks to the efforts of the local church, a 16-meter-high monument has been erected on the site of Haemi’s future international pilgrimage site, to honor the memory of hundreds of martyrs, most of whom remain unknown to this day.
“The establishment of the Haemi Martyrs’ Camp as an official international pilgrimage site is a glorious event that expresses the recognition of the heroic faith of so many anonymous martyrs, setting an example to the world,” the rector of Haemi Shrine stated in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
On the Vatican side, Msgr. Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, insisted that the testimony of the many Korean martyrs “passed on the faith to their descendants and thus founded the living community of disciples and witnesses of Jesus Christ.”
But the apostolate is still immense in South Korea: out of 51.8 million inhabitants, only 5.6 million belong to the Catholic Church, or 11% of the population, while 46% declare themselves to be without religion, 23% as Buddhist, and 18% as Protestant.