SEOUL — Only hours after a man brandished a toy gun at him, Pope John Paul II went on with his schedule, canonizing 103 early Christians who died here as martyrs to protect their faith.

Addressing thousands in Yoido Plaza, he extolled the courage and dignity of those who held the spiritual line despite constant persecution and brutal torture. In the 18th and 19th centuries, authorities sought to stifle the faith brought in by French missionaries — three of whom died with their converts.

Beneath a great white cross in a golden bowl, in golden robes, he praised the courage and dignity of the martyrs.

He said the Korean Catholic Church, now marking its 200th anniversary, was founded by Koreans who read of it in Chinese books. The first Korean Catholic was sent to China for baptism. French missionaries later came to spread the faith.

"In less than a century, (Korean Catholics) could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs," John Paul said.

The pontiff told how the newly inscribed saints, including 13-year-old Peter Yu and 72-year-old Mark Chong, "all gladly died for the sake of Christ."

As he proclaimed the saints, John Paul heard prayers offered for his church, for a troubled century, for all the world's faithful, and for his peace and comfort during his pilgrimage here.

Thousands silently read a prayer calling for the freedom of imprisoned North Koreans.

The day before, Saturday, the pope warned 200,000 farmers, factory workers and fishermen that their labor could nourish a "one-sided materialistic civilization" in which man is less important than merchandise.

The 63-year-old pontiff said that the teachings of Christ, a common carpenter, stress that "man who works is much more important than the product of his work" and that this order of values is "frequently forgotten."

He addressed the workers in Pusan, urging them to seek a greater share of the profit earned by their labors. He deplored struggles between labor and capital as a "great tragedy for humanity" but paid tribute to those who won larger wages for hard work.

"Jesus clearly belonged to the working world," John Paul said. "So did most of his disciples and listeners; ordinary fishermen, farmers and workers. So when he speaks about the Kingdom of God, Jesus constantly uses terms connected with human work; the work of the shepherd the farmer, the doctor, the sower, the householder, the steward, the fisherman, the merchant, the laborer. And he compares the building up of God's Kingdom to the manual work of harvesters and fishermen."

He spoke Saturday night to a gathering of Catholic scholars at Sogang University in Seoul — educators, scientists, artists, writers and lawyers. John Paul said they must "evangelize human culture" because man lacks real wisdom and is threatened by "irreparable pollution, by genetic manipulation, by the suppression of unborn life."

This has caused, the pope said, "The erosion of a sense of values.

"In our day, on a scale hitherto unknown, unjust economic systems exploit whole populations, political and ideological policies victimize the very soul of entire peoples, with the result that they are forced into uniform apathy or an attitude of total distrust of others."

Sogang was quiet and orderly, easing the fears of officials that students protesting what they call repressive campus policies might create disorder when John Paul addressed the scholars and also spoke at a clerical meeting.

A spokesman for the papal party denied earlier reports that John Paul had suffered severe discomfort when tear gas fired at demonstrators on a a nearby campus drifted onto Catholic University and filled a room where the pope was addressing seminarians.

"He (John Paul) wasn't concerned about it at all. He was fine," the spokesman said, quoting the Vatican embassy here. "Everyone except His Holiness was sneezing."

John Paul ends his pilgrimage here Monday, when he flies to Papua, New Guinea.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now