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Rome Reports

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Vatican exhibits the beginnings of the Church in Korea

The evangelization of Korea deserves a special mention. Yet, it wasn’t the missionaries who brought the faith, but lay people who returned to their motherland from China after being converted to Catholicism.

To celebrate the 230th anniversary of the Church’s arrival to the country, the Vatican opened the doors to this exposition: “On earth as it is in heaven.”

SR. ELIZABETH PARK
Expert on Korean Catholicism history
“There are three characteristics of the Korean Catholic Church that are represented in this exhibition. Firstly, the Church in Korea was spontaneously created by scholars, not the work of missionaries. Secondly, for a hundred years the Church in Korea was violently persecuted, and they kept the faith, even through those troubling times. Thirdly, the modern Church has been at the forefront of the fight for democracy, fighting for the isolated and poor, also toward reconciliation and world peace.”

The works prove that the beginnings of the Church were not easy. It is estimated that there were more than 10,000 martyrs

Among the most important pieces is this portrait of Blessed Kang Wan-suk, the first leader of the Church in Korea. Her testimony promoted equality between men and women and meant a breaking of the classist system that limited feminine participation. 

The first Korean translations of the Gospel can also be seen, as well as the letter sent by the bishop of Pekin to the prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples at the end of the 18th century. 

SR. ELIZABETH PARK
Expert on Korean Catholicism history
“This exhibition is very important for both European Church and for the Korean Church. Here at the Vatican, at the heart of Catholicism, we are able to show what the Korean Church is and has become. Also for the Korean Church itself, it is a chance to reflect on the firm belief and faith of the early believers in martyrs, and through that to become stronger.”

The Catholic Church in Korea has held an outstanding role in areas such as the defense of human dignity and has been determined to do God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”