Report finds Catholic population growing in South Korea

Recent statistics indicate that the Catholic population in South Korea has increased over the past year.

Last month, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea released a publication entitled Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2011.

The report, prepared by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea, states that at the end of 2012, there were 5,361,369 Catholics in the country, an increase of 1.6 percent – or 84,959 individuals – over the last year.

This accounts for just over 10 percent of the total population. According to the report, these numbers have "slightly and consistently increased at a yearly average of
2 – 3 percent during the past 11 years."

Just over half of South Korea's Catholics live in the metropolitan areas of Seoul, Suwon, Incheon and Uijeongbu.

The number of parishes in 2012 was 1,664, an increase of 17 from the previous year, while the number of mission stations rose by three to a total of 796.

Despite these increases, however, the report found that the number of newly baptized persons in 2012 was 132,076, a decrease of 1.8 percent from the previous year. Of those baptized, 25,141 were infants, a decrease of 2.2 percent from the previous year.

The statistics document also found a decline in new ordinations to the priesthood in 2012. While 131 priests were ordained, this represented a 7.6 percent decrease from the previous year. The total number of clergy in South Korea was 4,788, including 34 bishops.

Furthermore, the report found that the number of seminarians decreased by three percent to reach 1,540.

Reception of the sacraments also declined in 2012. The number of Catholics receiving the Sacrament of Confession was just under 4.9 million, down by 4.6 percent from the year before.

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