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A look ahead at pope’s day Saturday in South Korea

August 16, 2014

Pope Francis celebrates one of the key Masses of his five-day visit to South Korea on Saturday, beatifying 124 Korean martyrs. Here are details of the day ahead.

— Morning: Francis agreed to an unusual last-minute request to baptize the father of one of the student victims of South Korea’s April ferry sinking. The man was one of about a dozen survivors and relatives of the dead who met privately with Francis on Friday. He told the pope he had been studying the faith for two years and asked Francis himself to perform the sacrament. The Vatican spokesman said the baptism would take place Saturday, but a spokesman for the organizers of Francis’ trip, the Rev. Mattias Hur Young-yup, said the date had been pushed back to Sunday. He said both the family and the Vatican embassy in Seoul needed more time to prepare.

— 8:55 a.m. (2355 GMT) Francis visits the Seo So mun Sanctuary of martyrs. The Seoul monument marks the site where Korean Catholics were martyred for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some 103 of these early Korean Catholics were canonized by St. John Paul II during his 1984 visit to South Korea.

— 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) After visiting the monument, Francis traveled to Gwanghwamun Gate, one of Seoul’s landmarks where he celebrated a Mass to beatify another group of 124 martyrs. The main figure in this group is Paul Yun Ji-Chung, who was born in 1759 and was among the first Korean nobles who introduced Catholicism to Korea. Catholicism took hold in Korea in the late 18th century among those who had read imported books on the religion — years before foreign missionaries started coming, making the church here a uniquely homegrown institution. Historians say early believers were struck by the idea of a religion that preached universal equality in divine eyes at a time when the nobility’s discriminatory hierarchical system brutally exploited ordinary people. Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, which tried to shut the Korean Peninsula off from Western influence, killed about 10,000 Catholics for refusing to renounce their faith. Paul was beheaded in 1791 after he violated the traditional Confucian funeral rites for his mother.

— 4:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) Francis then travels about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Seoul to Kkottongnae, a hilltop community for the sick and disabled founded in the 1970s by a Korean priest. Francis will visit the “House of Hope” center for disabled, pray at a garden for aborted babies, meet with a paraplegic Korean pro-life activist and then deliver speeches to religious communities and lay Catholics. The Vatican spokesman has said the speech to leaders of Korea’s lay apostolate is a key one of the trip, given the unique role that lay people had in the founding of the church in Korea. The Kkottongnae center is not without controversy: there is some criticism that the center had financial questions and essentially puts the sick and disabled in a ghetto, rather than keeping them in society. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the local bishops’ conference decided that there was nothing wrong with the administration of the center and gave their blessing to the visit.

— 8 p.m. (1100 GMT) Francis returns to the Seoul embassy for the night.

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