"For 23 years the faithful have been meeting every Tuesday in Seoul Cathedral to pray to the Blessed Virgin to intercede for reunification," said Bishop Alfred Xuereb, the new nuncio in South Korea and Mongolia, "and I am sure that Mary looks down lovingly from Heaven at her children in Korea."
The first missionaries arrived in Korea in 1592 or 1593. The Church was persecuted three times in this region: from 1801 to 1831, the Church of Korea, composed of 10,000 faithful, remained without priests and kept the faith through devotion to Mary; between 1839 and 1846, 6,000 Catholics died as martyrs, among them the first Korean native priest; in 1866, two bishops, 7 missionaries and 10,000 Christians were killed.
These persecutions produced an even stronger reliance on the Blessed Virgin. Many families used the Rosary, scapulars, and medals to help them hold on to their faith. In North Korea, the atheistic regime discourages Marian shrines. But faith in God is alive and heroic. In the midst of the communist occupation, the Catholics built a new church in Pyonyang in 1988, dedicating it to "Our Lady of Perpetual Help."
In South Korea, WWII fighting ended on August 15, 1945 (feast of the Assumption of Mary), along with the Japanese domination that had lasted for 35 years. On December 8, 1948 (feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary), Korea was admitted to the United Nations. These key dates are not coincidental for Korean Catholics, who see in them a sign of Mary’s special protection.
There are 200 churches dedicated to Mary in South Korea, the most prominent being Seoul Cathedral, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
Attilio GALLI, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque continenti, Ed. Segno, Udine, 1997.