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Church in Korea continues to grow

SEOUL (AsiaNews): The Church in South Korean is continuing to grow, with figures from 2011 showing that 134,562 people were baptised, which brings the Catholic population to 5,309,964, or 10.3 per cent of the national population.

The Catholic population in South Korea has increased at a yearly average of two to three per cent over the past decade, according to Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2011, published by the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Korea.

However, while the average age rose, Sunday Mass attendance dropped, especially in the big cities. Nevertheless, the bishops are optimistic, saying that they believe this is a temporary trend and will change in the near future. 

Men make up 2.193 million of the Catholic population, or 41.5 per cent, whilst women number 3.095 million, 58.5 per cent.

Some 25,717 infants were baptised last year, an increase of 7.5 per cent over the previous year. The remaining 100,000 plus were adults.

Seoul has the most concentrated Church population with 27 per cent of all Catholics in Korea, followed by Suwon (14.8 per cent), Daegu (8.8 per cent) and Incheon, which is an adjacent city to Seoul (8.6 per cent). In the capital, Catholics represent 13.6 per cent of the local population.

A total of 141 priests were ordained last year, an increase of 3.3 per cent from 2010.

“For this growth, we must thank God, the creator of everything, but we must also thank our lay people,” Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, from Daejeon, the president of the bishops’ commission for the care of migrants, said. 

Speaking to AsiaNews, he noted, “The South Korean Church depends a lot on them, for every believer must proclaim the gospel. We are offering a course on how to proclaim the good news in all the parishes of our diocese. And this is bearing fruit.”

“Marriages and conversions are a gift from the Lord. Here in Daejeon, we celebrated more than 7,000 adult baptisms in 2011 and about 1,000 mixed marriages,” the bishop said.

“What is great is that the sacrament of marriage becomes a path to conversion. It is with joy that I can say that after a year of married life there is almost always a new adult baptism in these families,” the bishop concluded.

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