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The beatification ceremony for Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 other Catholic martyrs will be held Saturday at Gwanghwamun Gate. Some 10,000 Korean Catholics were killed during the 1700s and 1800s by Korean rulers who followed hierarchical Confucianism and required ancestor worship. Another 103 of those martyrs were canonized during John Paul’s 1984 visit.

Later Saturday, the pope will travel to Kkottongnae to visit a school and a service program for the disabled; on Sunday, he will fly to the Haemi Castle to hold the closing Mass at Asian Youth Day, a massive Catholic festival expected to draw people from 23 Asian countries.

“The pope wants to refresh the evangelization of Asia, which was a major theme that John Paul II had very much in his heart,” said the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, head of the Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency AsiaNews. “Going to meet the young people of Asia means to go find the future of Asia.”

Before departing Monday, Francis will meet with religious leaders and hold Mass at the Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

During his talks, Francis is expected to offer consolation to Koreans over April’s ferry sinking, which took the lives of more than 300 people, most of them students. He also is expected to pray at a garden for aborted babies and greet a group of Korean women who were used as sex slaves by Japan’s military during World War II.

Observers writing in American media note that Francis’ visit to South Korea fulfills a wish of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was unable to visit Asia before resigning last year in poor health.

Francis intends to return to Asia and visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January and possibly Japan at a later date. Catholicism is a minority religion in every Asian nation except the Philippines, but it is growing, church leaders said.

“On this continent the church may be small, but it grows 4 to 5 percent a year,” Father Cervellera said. “There are abundant vocations [for] people who are decided in their faith, so it could be, in some way, a model for all the other churches.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.