• Korea opens autumn pilgrimage tours

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    The shrine of Father Camillus Lim, the founder of Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Cathedral

    The shrine of Father Camillus Lim, the founder of Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Cathedral

    THE visit of Pope Francis in Korea’s religious places like the Haemi Martyrs and Solmoe Martyrs Shrines has marked the first papal visit to Asia in over a decade. His tour that lasted from August 14 to 18 comprised of different journeys within the country in religious landmarks.

    The Pope is also in Korea to attend the sixth Asian Youth Day, as well as beatify 124 Korean martyrs included in 10,000 Catholics killed in successive waves of persecution during the 19th century, Confucian-dominated Korea. Currently, Korea has the fourth largest number of saints in the Catholic world.

    With the visit of Pope Francis to Korea, it became a testament that many Koreans remain devout Catholics, and thus numerous churches, shrines and other religious places are continually preserved and religion is thriving in the Asian country.

    The Solmoe Shrine

    The Solmoe Shrine

    “There are many Catholic shrines and churches in Korea where miracles are said to have happened,” said Sangyong Zhu, director of the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) in Manila.

    “People come to these holy places to be blessed and healed by the Holy Spirit and to learn about the struggles of establishing the Catholic Church in a land once dominated by Confucianism,” he added.

    Among the well-known Catholic shrines in Korea is the Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Cathedral. It was established in 1896 in Chungcheongbukdo Province and is considered the Lourdes of Korea because miracles by the Virgin Mary are said to take place continuously.

    One of five most famous miraculous events occurred during the Korean War in 1950. A northern soldier shot the statue of Our Blessed Mother of Maegoe seven times. Yet, it remained undamaged. Today, the statue still stands bearing the seven marks of the bullets.

    Statue of Virgin Mary at the Gamgok Maegoe cathedral

    Statue of Virgin Mary at the Gamgok Maegoe cathedral

    The Solmoe Shrine is one of Pope Francis’s stops in Korea. This shrine is the birthplace of St. Andrew Father Kim Dae Geun, the first priest in Korea who was born in 1821 and ordained at the age of 25 in China.

    His birth house has been restored and stands at the entrance of the shrine, while his statue is located on the hillside surrounded by the pine tree forests. His remains and relics are displayed in the exhibition hall.

    The shrine honors the priest’s family, particularly his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all of whom were martyred for their faith.

    Haemi Martyr’s Shrine is also to be visited by Pope Francis. The shrine depicts the severity and brutality of religious persecution at the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Thousands of unknown Catholics were buried alive by being pushed into puddles and holes or executed by hanging, beheading, and beating, among others.

    A pilgrimage tour to Korea promises a spiritual and eye opening experience, and serves as a reminder of the ordeal of early Catholics who went through a lot to practice their faith. There are also many relics and items related to the history of Catholicism in Korea, which many Catholic travelers can marvel on.

    The Pilgrimage Tour, which is best experienced during this season, includes the visit in Gamgok Maegoe Virgin Mary Catholic Cathedral, Haemi Martyr’s Shrine, and Solmoe Martyr’s Shrine, which is offered in select travel agencies.

    For more information, contact KTO Manila Office at 880 0312 to 0313 or ktomanila@gmail.com.

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