Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War. That War produced many Christian martyrs as the Communist powers actively persecuted and murdered Christians luckless enough to fall into their hands. One martyr that has never received the recognition that I believe he deserves is Bishop Patrick J. Byrne.
Born on October 26, 1888 in Washington DC, he was ordained in 1915 and joined the newly formed The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known today as Maryknoll. In 1923 he was chosen to begin the mission in Korea. Named Prefect Apostolic of Pyongyang. By the time he returned to the States in 1929 the Catholic population of Korea had increased by 25,000 and there were numerous Korean priests and sisters.
In 1935 he was assigned to open a mission in Kyoto, Japan and in 1937 was named Prefect Apostolic of Kyoto. Kept under house arrest during the War, he broadcast calming messages to the Japanese people, at the request of the Japanese government following the surrender of Japan. During the occupation of Japan, Supreme Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur praised Monsignor Byrne for his assistance in helping bring peace to Japan.
In 1947 he was named Apostolic Visitor to Korea. Two years later he was named the first Apostolic Delegate to Korea and titular Bishop of Gazera.
On July 11, 1950 he was seized by the Communists after the fall of Seoul and put on trial. Bishop Byrne refused to be docile at the show trial and a second trial was held with similar results in Pyongyang. He was then marched to the Yalu, a journey that took four months in appalling weather with almost no food or water. He became ill with pneumonia and died on November 25, 1950. The night before he died he told his companions: