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Chapter 5[1] Korea

新年のご挨拶 - 天晴!にっぽん
Ambassador In Chains - Preface - 天晴!にっぽん

             CHAPTER 5

  There have been many martyrs in Korea, heralded to the world;
  but there have been a greater number of those " unknown saints "
  of whom the world will never hear ー men who, by living for
  Christ, have done what is perhaps harder than dying for Him.
  It is the privilege of Maryknoll to follow where these pioneers
  have led.
                       PATRICK J. BYRNE

FATHER BYRNE went to Korea by way of Rome, where he Pope Pius XI. “ It's a strange feeling that comes over one, ” he wrote, “ seeing for the first time the successor of St Peter, who is the Spiritual Head of many millions and who, in speaking officially, can make no mistakes in dogma and morals. It is a sentiment of reverence, of course, but there is a sort of logical consequence: ‘ Well, the earth has nothing higher. The next thing to see is an angel! ’ ”
 In his first letter from Korea, Father Byrne wrote of the kindness shown him in Japan by Father Fage, a priest of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, pastor of a large parish in Kobe. “ I felt Father Fage in Kobe, where I spent four days, delightful ones because of his kindly hospitality. With him I made a short excursion to Kyoto. ” This inaugurated the beginning of a long friendship. Father Fage's rectory became a haven for Maryknollers on the way to Korea and Manchuria and South China; there they always found a walcome.
 Father Byrne habitually ended his letters with a caricature of a duck beneath his signature. The duck's expression and raiment varied according to locality and content of the letter.

On the ocean, the duck had a smoke-stack in the back of his neck; in Rome, he was bewildered by the winding streets and alleys; and in Jerusalem, he sat atop the Biblical School speaking Hebrew.
 Father Walsh used to tell his young missioners that they should write often during the first few years, because many things that would attract their notice in the beginning would later lose the first fresh appeal. He was convinced that their best writing would be done in those early days. Fortunately, we have some of Father Byrne's first impressions of the "Hermit Kingdom".
 "Korea is eight hours by ferry from Japan. Due to arrive in the early morn, we were on deck to meet our adopted fatherland as soon as Sol should reveal the first hilly head from its dark blue pillow of mist. Others followed quickly, a whole orphan asylum of poor little, bald, yellow mountains with fresh green aprons tied with tiny white strings of roads. The coastline sharpened into focus, and we were presented with politely bobbing sampans with a lane leading straight to the quay, proudly waiting to show us, in the fresh morning light, ramrod Koreans in flowing robes of white."
 One of the first things Father Byrne did was to delve into the Catholic history of the country. It is a most interesting story, perhaps unique in the history of the Church.
 The Catholic Faith had been brought into Korea in the late eighteenth century by a layman, Ri Syeng Huni, son of the Korean Ambassador to China. While in China, the young man had been instructed and baptized by Jesuit missioners, and on his return to Korea he became a zealous apostle. in 1795, when the first Catholic priest reached Seoul, the Christians already numbered over 4,000. The priest, a Chinese from Pecking, worked among the Koreans for six years, and then was arrested and executed. There were more than 10,000 Christians in 1801, when the first of four great persecutions struck the Church and 300 Korean Christians died for the Faith. Other persecutions followed in 1839, 1846, and 1866.

 In 1831 Rome entrusted the evangelization of Korea to the Paris Foreign Mission Society. The first French priest, Father Maubant, arrived in 1836. The first Korean priest, Blessed Andrew Kim, ordained in Shanghai, secretly entered his native country on September 1, 1845. On September 15 he was arrested and beheaded. The greatest of the persecutions occurred in 1866, during which the Korean Church acquired thousands of martyrs. In 1880 a young priest, Father Mutel, later Bishop Mutel, ordinary of Seoul when Father Byrne arrived, had entered Korea in disguise. His Korean mourning costume included a conical straw hat that covered the entire face. The bishop, effectively shrouded, escaped detection. Six years later, after the edict of toleration, he was able to go about openly. Then came the harvest.
 "It seems incredible that such virile Catholic works could have been developed during the missionary experience of one man," Father Byrne wrote. When he reached Korea he found 178 churches and chapels, not one of which had existed when Bishop Mutel succeeded in entering the "Hermit Kingdom", so called because of its interdicts against foreigners, which had occasioned a few years previously the martyrdom of two bishops and seven missionaries. Bishop Mutel, during his thirty-three-year episcopate, had seen the baptismal registration of 243,336 souls, had established churches and schools throughout the country, and had ordained thirty-nine of the fifty-two priest in the native ministry.  
 In 1911 the Korean mission was divided into two vicariates: Seoul in the north and Taegu in the south. The northern vicariate was again divided in 1920, the north-east quarter, Wonsan, being assigned to the German Benedictines. In 1921 the Catholic population of the three vicariates was : Seoul, 51,600; Taegu, 30,600; Wonsan, 8,000. When in 1922 the Bishop of Seoul offered to Maryknoll the north-western province of Pyongyang, a section with 3,700 Catholics, the members of the Church in Korea numbered well over 90,000, or one Catholic Catholic to every 160 pagans.

 ”Bald facts and dry figures," remarked Father Byrne. "But what a wealth of labour, sacrifice, hardship, and even heroism is contained therein. We begged the Bishop to write his memories, interesting and valuable as they would be, but he only laughed and begged in turn to be excused."
 The process for the beatification of the martyrs of the first two persecutions in Korea, who had been declared venerable by His Holiness Pius IX in 1857, began in Rome on May 22, 1922. Bishop Imbert had been martyred in 1839, and Father Andrew Kim, a native priest, was martyred in 1846, with seventy-six of the Korean faithful. Father Byrne considered it a special privilege that his first days in the one-time "Hermit Kingdom" should have been spent in the place where these missionary Fathers had written such heroic and inspiring pages in the apostolic history of the Church.
 Sinuiju, the northern terminus of the Korean Railway, is on the Yalu River, near its mouth. The Japanese called it Shin Gishu, or Sin Gishu, as it was spelled by Father Byrne in describing his first sight of the new mission territory. Across the river lay a large Manchurian town, Antung, with many thousands of Koreans in addition to the Chinese and Japanese population. Sin Gishu was growing so rapidly at that time that it was difficult to get official census figures, but Father Paul Pak, the pastor there, reckoned the population at 20,000.
 It was at Gishu that the first Maryknoll Fathers made their headquarters while wrestling with the language. Father Byrne wrote that their house was a comfortable bungalow. He added, "While the winters appear to be so severe in the north that the poor farmers are kept awake at night by the chattering of the polar bear's teeth, yet Manchuria across the way tempers its cold winds with coal trains and stoves. What a contrast with the hard times of the old French missioners, some of whom are still living. How insignificant are the trifling hardships of today compared to the heroic trials that were tests of the stamina of those rugged apostles who introduced the Faith. There have been many martyrs in Korea,

heralded to the world ; but there have been a greater number of those 'unknown saints' of whom the world will never hear ー men who by living for Christ have done what is perhaps harder than dying for Him, men who have borne the 'burden of the day and the heats' for twenty, thirty, forty years, and who faithfully blazed the trail for the missioners of today. It is the privilege of Maryknoll to follow where these pioneers have led."
 Father Byrne had written from Seoul about a proposition made to him by Bishop Devred, the Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul, speaking for Bishop Blois, of Mukden. Bishop Blois was concerned about his Christians in Antung who had no priest. Hearing that the Maryknoll Fathers were coming, he wished them to assume that responsibility. Bishop Devred described some property which Father Byrne could use if he would place a priest there. Immediately Father Byrne thought of the possibility of the Maryknoll Sisters using that property for a convent and language school. This plan eventually worked out after many delays.
 At about that time comments on the language began to appear in The Field Afar. "Korean seems to be half pure Korean, about one-fourth imported Chinese, and the remainder of Japanese extraction. For almost every pure Korean noun there is a correlative of Chinese derivation. Adjectives exhibit the same base duplicity. To mix the two, placing a Korean adjective over a Chinese noun, and vice versa, is a penal offense of the first class with an octave. Moreover, one would not be understood, and this we would find hard to understand."
 Soon after his arrival Father Byrne suffered a severe attack of dysentery that left him extremely weak. He was hardly able to dress himself. For a while he had to say Mass sitting down. This attack seems to have affected his health throughout his entire mission career, but he always made light of it and joked about his weakness.
 "I believe and certainly hope that I finally become 'acclimated,' for it has cost me two month of dysentery and a

short sojourn in a far-famed Protestant hospital. In the meantime I at least succeeded in getting rid of some of that superfluous flesh that has been making life a burden for me in recent years, and now I am able to enjoy the warm weather. { The "superfluous flesh" was intended to provoke a smile, for he was always under weight. } It takes the pep out of a chap thoug, and even doing nothing is hard work. Just how I succeeded in getting under the weather is a puzzle, for I neglected none of the standard precautions. They say it is simply in the air and in the greenness of the horn. Well, all zwell that end zwell." The letter ended with a very dilapidated-looking duck out on a limb, with a bandage wrapped around its head and tied beneath its bill.
 Father Walsh believed that the dysentery might have resulted from an effort Father Byrne possibly made to live on native food. Since Father Ford in China had made such an attempt at first, with almost disastrous results, Father Walsh questioned Father Byrne about it, but Father Byrne vehemently denied having attempted anything so foolish.
 The bout with dysentery had so shaken his health that he was advised to leave temporarily for Shanghai to recuperate. On his return he wrote, "Since the Shanghai trip, I've been speeding sixty miles an hour to normalcy, and can now read a detective story with the best of them."
 In the late months of 1923 Father Patrick H. Cleary, of Ithaca, New York, teamed up with Father Byrne in Korea, to be followed shortly afterward by Father John E. Morris, of Fall River, Massachusetts. They immediately joined their superior in an intensive attack on the language. The daily schedule was crowded. There were two classes in Korean, one class in Chinese characters, and several study periods. Father Morris apparently possessed a natural aptitude for the language, for Father Byrne commented : "Father Cleary and I tell him he is just trying to show off, and if he had any humility, as we have, he wouldn't be displaying his prowess so blatantly."