​Korea’s patron saint statue installed at Saint Peter’s Basilica

Following Vatican’s approval, the statue of the patron saint of Korea was installed at the Saint Peter’s Basilica on September 16, the anniversary of his beheading by the Korean Joseon Dynasty.

Canonized in 1984, Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn is known as the first native Korean priest and also as their earliest martyr, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ News.

The statue was proposed by Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, a Korean prelate and prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy. It was also approved by Pope Francis, who has pointed to Kim’s missionary zeal as a model for all Christians to follow.

“Saint Andrew Kim and the other Korean faithful have demonstrated that the testimony of the Gospel given in times of persecution can bear many fruits for the faith,” said Pope Francis in a homily.

The statue of the patron saint is made from six-ton marble. It was installed in a niche circle outside Saint Peter’s Basilica, and was blessed by the archpriest Cardinal Mauro Gambetti.

According to You, the dedication of Saint Kim’s statue is “a great honor for [their] Korean church.”

“We believe and hope that he can be increasingly loved and his intercession invoked by the faithful all over the world,” You said.

The saint converted to Catholicism at the age of 15, eventually trained for priesthood in Macao and ordained in 1836 by French Bishop Jean Joseph Jean-Baptiste Ferréol, the first bishop of Seoul.

He then returned to Korea to evangelize his homeland. However, he was tortured and ultimately beheaded at the age of 25 for the crime of being a Catholic.

Writing to his fellow Christians shortly before his death, Kim encouraged them to stay true to the faith. He said: “We have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?”

In his last words before he was executed, according to Macao News research, Kim urged his compatriots to convert to the one true faith.

“This is the last hour of my life,” Kim reportedly said. “Listen to me attentively. If I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal punishments in store for those who have refused to know him.”

Along with 102 other Korean martyrs, Kim was canonized on May 6, 1984, by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Korea.

An estimated 10,000 Korean Christians were martyred for the faith before Christianity became tolerated in South Korea in 1884.

There are currently more than 5 million Catholics in South Korea, making up about 11.3 percent of the country’s total population, according to Agenzia Fides.