Korean Prefect Apostolic's Great Tribute to Captain Vyvyan Holt
By a Staff Reporter
WHEN Mgr. Thomas Quinlan, Prefect Apostolic of Chunchon, Korea, stepped
smiling from the R.A.F. plane on to the sunlit runway of R.A.F. Abingdon airfield on Wednesday he was catching his first glimpse of England for over 30 years.
"I found heaven in Moscow of all places for it was there that by special permission that I celebrated Mass at 4 p.m. last Monday, April 20th, in the private chapel of Fr. Bissonnette, A.A.,—it was my first Mass for two years and ten months," he told me, with eyes shining and undimmed by his captivity, soon after landing, in a quiet corner of the garden of the Officers' Mess.
He had arrived with the first batch of released civilians at Abingdon R.A.F. aerodrome to be greeted by Fr. Cunningham, Superior of the Mission; Fr. Michael Sexton, parish priest and acting chaplain at the aerodrome; and Fr. William Casey, of Portsmouth. Mr. Boland, the Irish Ambassador in London, British Government Officials, Television and newsreel cameras and one of the greatest crowds of newspaper men from ten different countries were there.
All the long months of captivity since July 1, 1950, he could not say Mass. Not only was it forbidden but there were no materials available until the "wonder and joy of last Monday afternoon."
He said Mass for the second time in Berlin in the chapel of Fr. J. C. MacVeigh, Chaplain to the British Forces in the City, and here it was that he was fitted out with brand
new clerical garb, from his Korean rags of staple fibre—a gift from Fr. Kaiser, of the N.C.W.C. •
His days in captivity were mostly spent in hauling wood and water. "I heard Confessions whenever I could, in secret," he told me, "and the only spiritual solace I had was the summer quarter of the breviary of a French priest who grabbed it and hid it as he was arrested, and my Rosary heads.
"I said the daily Office as best I could, but my Rosary, oh, how joyous was that to hold!
"We were getting wonderful results among the Koreans when I was captured—many, many converts, and the situation delighted me," Mgr. Quinlan insisted, as though nothing else mattered.
The seed is there, and when peace comes—and come it must—the Faith in the Far East will definitely grow and develop."
Mgr. Quinlan confirmed that Bishop P. Byrne died during internment on November 25, 1950, and that Fr. Frank Canavan. who had been interned with him, had died of pneumonia.
Mgr. Quinlan then said : "I wish formally to place on record the courage, heroism and kindness of Capt. Vyvyan Holt, the British Minister in Seoul. Time and again during captivity he fought my case with the Koreans, declaring that not only was I a priest of God, but an Irish citizen, and 'Ireland wasn't in this shindy,' but the Koreans would not listen."
It was Mr. Deane who called world attention to the extraordinary selflessness and courage of Mgr. Quinlan during the ordeal of captivity. In Moscow, on the long journey home from North Korea, the Observer correspondent remarked:
"That Fr. Quinlan—what a wonderful man. Some day they'll give