The Vatican

Korea, China, Mary Help of Christians and the Holy Spirit resound in Rome

The example of evangelization of the first priest martyr of Korea, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, in times of persecution; prayer to the patroness of Shanghai and closeness to the faithful of China; devotion to Mary Help of Christians so that "she may be close to the Ukrainian people"; and the petition "to the Lord to give us the strength of the Holy Spirit", were the main themes of the Pope's Audience today in Rome.

Francisco Otamendi-May 24, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes
pope audience may 24

Photo: The Pope receives a gift during the greetings after the audience ©Vatican Media

The "great Korean witness", in the words of Pope Francis, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the first priest martyred in Korea when a great persecution took place in that Asian country two hundred years ago; the prayer for the Catholic Church in China; the feast of Mary Help of Christians, which the Church celebrates today, Wednesday, and the petition to the Holy Spirit to be "disciples of Jesus in the vocation to which God has called us", were the main themes of the Audience This morning in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father delivered his fourteenth catechesis on "The Passion to Evangelize. The apostolic zeal of the believer".

"In this Audience I would like to present to you another witness of apostolic zeal. This time it comes to us from distant lands," the Pope began. "Indeed, St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first priest martyred in Korea. Two hundred years ago, there was a strong persecution in that country, and it was not possible to confess the faith openly. Before that, it was the laity who evangelized Korea," the Pope began, commenting on the reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 10:24-25.27).

"His life was and continues to be an eloquent witness of zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel. Some two hundred years ago, the Korean land was the scene of a harsh persecution of the Christian faith. To believe in Jesus Christ, in Korea at that time, meant being ready to bear witness to the point of death". St. Andrew Kim Taegon was one of the 103 Korean martyrs canonized by St. John Paul II in 1984.

"Walking in the snow."

"I highlight two scenes that give us proof of this zeal," Pope Francis continued. "In the first, we see St. Andrew faced with the difficulty of having no choice but to meet the faithful in public, and managing to recognize himself without anyone noticing, summarizing his identity in two words. The words he had to say were 'disciples of Jesus'. It is very interesting that this is the summary of all that can be said, since in them it is supposed to give life to the Gospel, to witness to it", the Roman Pontiff emphasized.

"In the second, we meet him when he was a seminarian walking in the snow to look for a missionary and, completely exhausted, he fell to the ground, but a helping hand lifted him up and pushed him on. The lesson of this scene is that even though we may fall, we can always get up again because Jesus sustains us." 

"This experience of the great Korean witness makes us realize a very important aspect of apostolic zeal," Francis noted. "Namely, the courage to get up again when one falls. However difficult the situation may be, even at times it may even seem to leave no room for the Gospel message, we must not give up and we must not give up pursuing what is essential in our Christian life, namely evangelization." 

"We can always get back up again."

"Perhaps at times we get discouraged, due to external obstacles, and the fact of bearing witness to the Gospel attracts incomprehension and contempt," the Pope added. "However, at the same time, we can always get up again, because the Lord Jesus never abandons us, he is always near us, he encourages us and takes us by the hand. And he always repeats to us: 'Arise, walk!' He himself is the one who rose from the dead. His Resurrection is precisely the mystery in which lies the possibility for us to rise from every fall; it is the source of the strength that allows us to go forward. 

"Brothers and sisters, let us not lose heart, let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the sweet joy of evangelizing (cf. Paul VI), and with the strength that Jesus Christ gives us, let us go forward," the Holy Father encouraged.

Later, he reiterated this same idea. "I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims. Let us ask the Lord for the zeal that moved St. Andrew, that the Lord may give us the strength of his Holy Spirit; at this time we ask with special intensity to witness to his Gospel in daily life, simply by being "disciples of Jesus", in the vocation to which God has called us. Let us also ask him to always be that friend who sustains us in difficulties, so that we may persevere on the path of goodness until the end. May the Lord bless you and may the Blessed Virgin watch over you. Thank you very much.

"May Mary be close to the Ukrainian people".

The Pope referred on several occasions to Mary Help of Christians. "Today is the feast of Our Lady venerated under the title of Mary Help of Christians. May she obtain consolation and serenity for you, dear elderly and sick people. And to the newlyweds, may she encourage you to live the commandment of love in your daily life. On the feast of Mary Help of Christians, the Marian invocation so dear to our hearts, may she obtain consolation and comfort for you, dear elderly and sick people. don BoscoA special greeting to the Salesian families, I thank them for all they do for the Church".

A call to pray for Ukraine. "And still a sadness, which comes to all of us, for the martyred Ukraine. There is so much suffering there. Let us not forget. Today let us ask Mary Help of Christians to be close to the Ukrainian people. And to all my blessing".

Then, after the summary in Polish, the Holy Father also said: "We remind you of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, and may she, Mother of Consolation, grant the Church in Poland, the pastors and the faithful, especially families, the elderly and the sick, the grace to be ready to bear witness to the faith. Live in such a way that others recognize in you the disciples of Christ. I bless you from my heart".

Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai

Before addressing a catechesis to the Italian-speaking faithful, Pope Francis made an appeal: "Today is the World Day of Prayer for the Catholic Church in China. It coincides with the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, venerated and invoked in the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai. 

"On this occasion, I wish to assure the remembrance and express closeness to our brothers and sisters in China, sharing their joys and hopes. A special thought goes to all those who suffer, pastors and faithful, so that in the communion and solidarity of the universal Church they may experience consolation and encouragement. I invite all to raise their prayers to God, so that the Good News of Christ crucified and risen may be proclaimed in its fullness, beauty and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and of the whole of Chinese society".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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