Pope Francis said Saturday the legacy of Korean martyrs will contribute to promoting peace and human values in South Korea and the rest of the world.
"The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world," the pope said during a beatification Mass in central Seoul for 124 Korean martyrs.
Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions are among the first-generation Korean Catholics killed for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries by Korean rulers who feared the rapid spread of Catholicism would undermine the nation's Confucianism-based ruling ideology.
"Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing and where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded," the pontiff said.
"They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for," he said. "If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death."
The pope also mentioned about the unique history of Korean Catholicism and how the sacrifice of the martyrs contributed to Korean history.
"Today is a day of great rejoicing for all Koreans," he said.
"The heritage of Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions -- their integrity in the search for truth, their fidelity to the highest principles of the religion which they chose to embrace, and their testimony of charity and solidarity with all -- these are part of the rich history of the Korean people."
Hundreds of thousands of Catholics from all over South Korea and ordinary people packed a downtown plaza in Seoul to get a rare glimpse of the landmark event.
In preparation for the ceremony, the Seoul city government closed the roads around the beatification venue to traffic. (Yonhap)