SEOUL, April 8 (Korea Bizwire) – The number of baptized Catholics increased last year for the first time since 2010, apparently affected by Pope Francis’ first-ever visit to the country, the local church said on Wednesday.
According to the official statistics released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, a total of 124,748 Catholics were baptized last year in the country, up 5 percent from the previous year.
This marked the first increase after four consecutive years of decrease, with a 10.4 percent drop in 2010, 4.3 percent in 2011, 1.8 percent in 2012, and then 10 percent in 2013.
The Bishops’ Conference says the increase is presumed to be affected by the pope’s five-day visit to South Korea in August, when he attended a gathering of Asian Catholic youth and beatified Korean martyrs.
His 100-hour stay in South Korea left an impression on the Korean people as it was packed with meetings with the country’s marginalized — grieving families who lost loved ones in last year’s Sewol ferry disaster, disabled people living in a rehabilitation center, North Korea defectors settled in the country, and migrant workers mostly from Southeast Asian countries.
The statistics also showed that South Korea’s Catholic population rose slightly by 2.2 percent to about 5.57 million, which accounts for 10.6 percent of the country’s total population of 52.41 million, last year.