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"Explosive" growth in S. Korean Catholics may be world's fastest

A missioner who has been going to Korea since the 1980s reviews its astonishing, possibly record-breaking, rise of Catholicism.

Piedro Gheddo
Korea

April 19, 2012

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There may be no other country in the world that over the past half century has seen growth as sustained as that of South Korea, including conversions to Christ. From 1960 to 2010, the number of inhabitants went from 23 to 48 million; per capita income from 1,300 to 19,500 dollars; Christians from 2 to 30 percent, of which about 10-11 percent, 5.5 million, are Catholic; there were 250 Korean priests, today there are 5,000. I first went to South Korea in 1986 with Fr. Pino Cazzaniga, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Japan, who speaks Korean. Even back then it was a Church with many conversions, and it is still so today. Every parish has from 200 to 400 baptisms of converts from Buddhism each year. Most of the converts are city dwellers. Each year there are 130-150 new priests, one for every 1,110 baptized. In 2008, the proportion of Catholics exceeded 10 percent of South Koreans, and grows by about 3 percent each year. In 2009, the number of baptized reached 157,000, and 149 priests were ordained, 21 more than in 2008. More than two thirds of the priests are under the age of 40. "Over the past ten years, the Catholic Church in Korea has gone from three to five million faithful; in Seoul we are 14 percent," Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, has said in an interview. The Catholic Church in South Korea is the one that is growing most vigorously in Asia. Full Story: South Korea, the Asian Tiger of the Church [Note: the text of this article appears after a lengthy preamble by Sandro Magister. Please scroll down through the article to reach it.] Source: Chiesa Espresso/La Repubblica
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