06/30/2009, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA

The 5,000th Korean priest is born in Seoul

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Card Nicholas Chung Jin-suk presided over the ordination ceremony for 27 priests and deacons. The prelate remembers the first Korean priest ordained 164 years ago who died a martyr’s death. The number of South Korean Catholics tops five million or about 10 per cent of the population.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – After 164 years since the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Dae-gon, was ordained the Catholic Church welcomed its 5000th Korean priest, this in a country, South Korea, where Catholics now number five million or 10 per cent of the population

Card Nicholas Chung Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, presided over the ceremony of ordination for 27 priests and deacons at Olympic Park in downtown Seoul.

The event was indeed particularly poignant because Dionysious Son Ho-bin from Jaegi-dong Parish was among them. He is Korea’s 5000th Korean priest.

“Today, here at this place, the 5000th Korean priest is born to the example of Father Andrew Kim Dae-gon, the first Korean priest, who died a martyr 164 years ago during harsh persecution,” Cardinal Chung said. “We are honoured to preside over the ordination” as “we celebrate the year of St. Paul and the Year of the Priest.”

Some 14,000 priests, religious and faithful were present at the ceremony. They prayed for the new priests and the new deacons, who will celebrate their first Mass in their respective parishes.

Recently the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) released data showing that as of the end of 2008, local Catholics numbered just over five million or 9.9 percent of the total population of 50,394,374. This represents a 130,000 increase from 2007.

The CBCK noted that while the Catholic population has increased by 2.7 per cent a year on average over the past 10 years, the country's overall population has edged forward by just 0.8 per cent.

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