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South Korea Archdiocese apologizes for controversial relic on sale

St Andrew Kim Taegon (Seoul Archdiocese)

The Archdiocese of Seoul, South Korea, apologized after putting a relic of St. Andrew Kim Taegon on sale on an e-commerce site.

After a fragment of the saint's spine was put up for sale online for 10 million won (US$7,957), the archdiocese apologized on June 8.

Father Heo Young-yup said in a statement that the archdiocese apologizes to those who recently received bad news and are concerned regarding the remains of Father Andrew Kim Tae-geon.

As part of the jubilee of the 200th birth anniversary of St. Andrew Kim, Seoul Archdiocese is investigating all relics of him in all parishes. 

It was reported that 85 parishes had the human remains of St. Andrew Kim.

The statement said the saint's remains were stolen from a parish in 1983 and the church was unable to retrieve them.

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of veneration and devotion to the remains of saints, but the Code of Canon Law strictly prohibits the sale or transfer of sacred relics without the consent of the diocesan bishop, the statement said.

It shocked not just Catholics but also society when an advertisement was posted on March 26 to advertise the sale of a relic of St. Andrew Kim, the archdiocese said. 

In 1996, the archdiocese cited a church report that detailed how many of the saint's relics were distributed as part of the procedure leading to his canonization. 

It also maintained a record of the distribution of relics from 1969 through 1996 at the Liturgy Museum of the Catholic University of Korea.  

The statement also mentioned that parts of the file are incomplete because of a lack of details and because the majority of the custodians from that time have passed away.

If the archdiocese is able to verify the authenticity of the relics in September, it plans to issue a certificate of authenticity to those who submit relics without a bishop's certificate.

"We will reissue the certificates once they have been verified. Our hope is that this will improve our ability to closely supervise the preservation of remains and prevent the dissemination of fake remains," the statement said.

Andrew Kim, the first Korean Catholic priest, was born in 1821 into a family of Christian converts. At the age of 15, he was baptized and studied at a seminary in Macau. 

During the rule of the staunchly Buddhist Joseon dynasty, he was imprisoned and persecuted for his efforts to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. His execution took place in 1846 when he was 25 years old.

When Pope John Paul II visited South Korea in 1984, he canonized 103 martyrs, including Andrew Kim. - Anbu Selvam 


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