South Korea´s Conversions Lead World

Third Largest Catholic Country in Asia

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SEOUL, South Korea, MAR. 22, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- South Korea is Asia´s third most Catholic country, after the Philippines and India, and has the highest annual adult baptism rate in the world.

Some 150,000 adults are received into the Church every year. There was a boom of new Catholics, following John Paul II´s first visit in 1984. Catholics comprise 3.95 million, or 8.3%, of the country´s 46 million people.

This local Church has a strong missionary spirit, and sends missionaries to the former Soviet republics, other Asian countries (including China), Africa and South America. There are even Korean priests manning parishes in France.

The South Korean Church is a catalyst in the reconciliation with North Korea. President Kim Dae-jung, one of last year´s Nobel Peace Prize recipients, and a noted defender of democracy in the country, is the first Catholic to hold this office. He is responsible for the first peace talks with Kim Jong II, leader of the Communist regime, which took place in Pyongyang last June.

Evangelization began in Korea at the end of the 18th century when, after reading Christian writings brought by Catholics from Beijing, Confucian scholars decided to follow Christ. Pope Gregory XVI created the Apostolic Vicariate of Korea in 1831. Catholics were granted freedom of worship in 1884, after a period of intense persecution during which half the Catholics were killed. Missionaries were allowed to return to the country in 1875. Another period of persecution followed from 1973-1979.

The Church in South Korea has 2,927 priests, 1,715 major seminarians, 1,170 religious brothers, 8,551 religious sisters, 1,092 parishes, 12,243 catechists, and 420 foreign missionaries.

Christians Boycott Municipal Elections in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, MAR. 22, 2001 ( Christians have boycotted municipal elections which involved 10 million voters in the renewal of 1,459 municipal administrations in 20 districts.

Ruling General Pervez Musharraf has promised to establish democracy before October 2002. But the National Justice and Peace Commission, affiliated to the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, described the electoral system in existence as «immoral, unconstitutional and illogical.»

The voting method in the Wednesday elections allows citizens to choose their own representatives according to their religious affiliation. Non-Muslim minorities have a restricted number of candidates from which to choose.

Ministers of the Commonwealth, from which Pakistan was excluded following the coup 17 months ago, have also been skeptical about Musharraf´s conduct. In a statement published Tuesday, they criticized «the restrictions to democratic activity imposed by Islamabad.»

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