Church leaders in Korea have opened causes for the beatification of more than 200 martyrs, including the former bishop of Pyongyang.
The causes involve two groups of people who died in persecutions: one in the late 18th century, the other in the 20th century after the Communist takeover of North Korea. The latter group includes Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho, who was named apostolic vicar of Pyongyang in 1944 and formally appointed as bishop of the North Korean capital in 1962. He was imprisoned in 1949, and subsequently disappeared. Finally in 2013 the Vatican acknowledged that he had died, probably in a prison camp, although the date of his death remains unknown.
The list of candidates for martyrdom includes a number of foreign missionaries, including an American, Bishop Patrick James Byrne, who established the first Maryknoll mission in Korea in 1923. He was seized by North Korean government agents in 1950 and led on a forced march to Pyongyang; during the march he contracted pneumonia and he died soon thereafter.
The Korean bishops’ conference has been authorized by the Vatican to organize the causes at the national rather than diocesan level.