Pope OKs martyr honors for 124 Koreans, making it likely he will visit South Korea in August

A trip to South Korea this summer by Pope Francis is looking more likely after he approved honoring 124 Koreans as martyrs.

The Vatican said Saturday Francis has confirmed that the Koreans, among more than 10,000 killed for their faith in their homeland between 1791 and 1888, deserve to be beatified. Beatification is the last formal step in the Catholic church before sainthood.

Last month, the Vatican has said a papal trip to South Korea in August was under consideration.

AsiaNews, the news agency of the Vatican's missionary division, said Francis' approval of the beatification decree makes a papal trip to South Korea "increasingly likely." It said Aug. 15 was the likely date for the beatification ceremony.

Francis has a Middle East pilgrimage scheduled for late May.