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SEOUL, South Korea - Pope Francis beatified 124 Korean martyrs on Saturday, telling hundreds of thousands of people who turned out for his open-air Mass that their ancestors' willingness to die rather than renounce their faith two centuries ago was a model for Asian missionaries today. These early Catholics were killed in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Joseon Dynasty, which tried to shut the Korean Peninsula off from Western influence.
Police declined to give an estimate of the crowd size, but the Vatican said some 800,000 people had turned out. In his homily, Francis said the martyrs "challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for." A collective cheer erupted from the masses when Francis declared the 124 "blessed" — the first step toward possible sainthood. En route to the altar before Mass, Francis stopped his open-topped car so he could get out and bless a group of families who lost loved ones in the April Sewol ferry sinking, in which more than 300 people, most of them high-school students, died.
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