Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Popes John Paul II and Francis " prophetically pointed out to Korea the challenges it must face in order to overcome difficult and potentially very dangerous times, not only for the Church, but for society as a whole," Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik said in his address to the 2014 AsiaNews International Symposium, whose theme is "Mission in Asia: from Pope John Paul II to Pope Francis."
The prelate said that it was his hope that the 'heritage they left us would not be short-lived but be permanent and become a path that bears the fruit of true salvation in Korea and throughout Asia."
During his speech, Mgr You mentioned the three papal visits to Korea - by John Paul II in 1984 and 1989, and by Francis in 2014 - from a personal point of view and from that of the Catholic community.
"The theme of the holy martyrs and the commitment of the faithful in contemporary society unite the various visits. They each generated great enthusiasm and left a great impression on Korea. Indeed, Francis has left such a deep impact that some people saw as more Korean than the Koreans!"
Equally, cultural proximity has led to a revival of the faith. "For instance, in the Archdiocese of Seoul alone, Myeongdong Cathedral saw the number of believers double after the Pope's visit."
"In September 2012, some 165 people were enrolled in catechism in preparation for baptism. In September 2013, they were 102, but in September 2014, there were more than 300. And this is happening all over the country."
The pope urged the country to reflect also on the progress of "values" associated with false myths, like economic and financial growth at the expense of inner realities.
"Facing the solution of these problems in an evangelical way is the only way to bring about a renaissance of society," the archbishop said, "especially through greater awareness that inner growth comes with outer growth and neither can proceed at the expense of the other."
"In addition, there is the awareness of the need to collaborate in full solidarity with the Asian and universal Church because only in unity does the Gospel message have the power to overcome the forces of evil."