The Archdiocese of Seoul in South Korea has apologized for putting a relic of St. Andrew Kim Taegon on sale on an e-commerce site.
“We apologize to all people who are concerned about recent news on relics of St. Andrew Kim Taegon,” read the archdiocese statement released on June 8.
A fragment of the saint’s spine was reportedly put up for sale online for 10 million won (US$7,957) in March this year.
Yonhap News Agency even cited a 1996 report that at least 141 institutions and clergy, including a church in the Archdiocese of Seoul, had been given a fragment of the saint’s body.
The news agency said the saint’s remains have been scattered to a total of 209 places, including 40 churches or religious institutions, with more than 160 Catholic priests and followers having obtained a physical relic of the saint.
The Archdiocese of Seoul admitted that out of the 103 chapels under its jurisdiction that enshrine relics of Catholic saints, 85 of these have the saint’s remains.
“We’ve distributed the relics to church officials in accordance with our practice and tradition,” said the archdiocese’s statement.
“We’ve checked their names on a list of receivers, but it’s incomplete due to the lack of detailed personal information,” it added.
It said that a fragment of St Kim Taegon’s remains was stolen from a chapel in 1983.
“We found out that a relic of St. Kim Taegon was thieved in 1983 while on display at a church,” said the local church.
The archdiocese said it will re-issue certificates to those who possess part of the saint’s remains in a bid to keep close tabs on preservation of sacred remains and prevent further transactions.
Born in 1821, St. Andrew Kim Taegon was ordained as the first Korean priest in 1845. But he was persecuted and executed for practicing Christianity the following year. He was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II during his visit to South Korea in 1984.
The South Korean Catholic Church celebrated the 200th birth anniversary of St. Kim last year, carrying out various memorial events and campaigns, including pilgrimage programs and special services across the country.