Bishops laud John Paul II's contribution
Pope made two visits to the country and contributed strongly to its Catholic development
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea issued a press release titled "Blessed John Paul II and Korean Church" yesterday, announcing the late pontiff’s beatification on May 1 by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
They stressed that his beatification casts a long shadow over the local Church too.
They said his first visit to the country in 1984 made a significant contribution in "the rapid increase of the Catholic population," adding the number of the Catholics had exceeded 2 million in 1986, from 1.3 million in 1980.
Pope John Paul II visited South Korea in May 1984 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Korean Catholic Church and canonize 103 martyrs in Korea in the 1800s' persecutions.
The bishops said that his first visit motivated the local Church to convene its national pastoral meeting where bishops and Catholic representatives discussed important issues of the Church and society for seven months.
After his first visit, "a plastic sheet bearing his photo became the most cherished favorite among schoolchildren," they recalled.
The late pope visited Korea again to celebrate the 44th International Eucharistic Congress in Seoul in 1989, which aroused "the importance of sharing and ecumenical dialogues" in the local Church, they noted.
They said his second visit motivated local Catholic and Protestant Churches to hold an ecumenical prayer service in the Anglican cathedral in Seoul, and Seoul archdiocese's One-body One-spirit Movement to grow as the country's largest Catholic NGO practising sharing in some 50 countries.
The bishops also evaluated that the late pope's teaching about life has greatly influenced the pro-life movement of the country, where low fertility and abortion are prevalent, explaining that he had earlier warned of anti-life culture like abortion, birth control and euthanasia.
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