Newsletter of the District
Korean Martyr for the
Society of St Pius X:
François Berneux, Bishop and Martyr,
Apostolic Vicar of Korea
(1814 – 1866)
As we have said in our
editorial, by a wonderful gesture of Divine Providence, the SSPX
has acquired the major relics of St Simeon Francois Berneux, last
February 2001. The relics have now been translated to the SSPX
chapel in Berlin, Germany, and they are awaiting a privileged place
in the new church that is being built.
Berneux was born on May 14, 1814 in Mans, France. He came from an
ordinary family. His mother was a very devout woman, and gave Siméon
a good Christian education. When he was ten years old, he told his
mother that he wanted to become a priest.
There were many obstacles
in the way of his desire. His father was lukewarm, and his family
was poor. Finally his father gave his consent and his parish priest
helped him go to school. Young Berneux studied very well. He continued
his studies in Mans.
In 1831, he entered the major
seminary in Mans. A year after he began his studies, he fell ill.
His bishop found him a job as a family tutor for two years. Later
he returned to the seminary. He taught philosophy before he finally
was ordained a priest on May 30, 1837. After his ordination he continued
at the seminary as a professor and a spiritual director.
On July 15, 1839, Father
Berneux joined the Paris Foreign Mission Society. He wanted to go
to Korea which had been hard-hit by persecutions, and he left Paris
on January 15, 1840.
He met Bishop Retord in Manila,
who wanted to take him to Tonkin, China. They were separated on
the way, and Father Berneux worked in Indochina. He was captured
by persecutors and severely beaten. He was sentenced to death but
was released through the intercession of a French admiral. Then
he went to Singapore and on to Macao. He worked in China so hard
that he fell ill many times. On August 5, 1854, Father Berneux was
appointed by Pope Pius IX as the fourth Vicar Apostolic of Korea,
succeeding Bishop Ferréol.
Episcopal Cross of
was very happy to go to Korea, "a wonderful country of martyrs",
as he exclaimed. Bishop Berneux together with Fathers Charles Antoine
Pourthié and Michel Alexandre Petitnicolas waited for about two
months. At last they were successful in obtaining passage on a boat
owned by a Korean Catholic, and four days later they were safely
The tireless Bishop Berneux
immediately started his pastoral work. He built a seminary in Paeron
to educate future priests. He also started publishing Catholic books.
He named Father Antoine Daveluy a coadjutor bishop. He was a kind
and merciful father as well as a great leader. The number of the
Catholics increased tremendously.
Bishop Berneux was arrested
and sent to prison on February 23, 1866. Fathers Dorie, Beaulieu
and De Bretenières were also arrested and put in the same prison
with Bishop Berneux. After severe tortures they were sentenced to
death on March 6, 1866. The next day they were beheaded at Saenamt'o.
They were happy to die for the faith in this country. It has been
said that Bishop Berneux had a mysterious smile on his face when
he died. He was 52 years old.