06/25/2010, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Korean Church “renews its love for God "

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
At the conclusion of the priests, dioceses throughout the country gathered around their clergy, called to be "Servant of the Servants of the Lord."

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The priestly ministry "does not mean having power over men, but rather it is a commitment to being a servant of the servants of God.  As priests we must do our best to follow God and his teachings through prayer: we have been chosen by the Lord despite our weaknesses and our faults, and only in this way we can prove ourselves worthy". So said the Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, during his homily at the Mass which concluded the Year for Priests.

The Catholic Church is extremely dynamic in South Korea.  In less than ten years, the faithful have increased steadily, reaching 10.1% of the population. Even the local clergy has increased. Of the 15 dioceses, which have a total of 5 million and 120 thousand faithful, the largest is the Archdiocese of Seoul, where 27.4% of Catholics reside.

The number of baptized in 2009 rose to 157 thousand, 10.9% more than in 2008. If the number of children baptized grew by 7.5% in one year, the number of those baptized before reaching one year, which decreased significantly, is concerning indicating that it is still necessary to promote the baptism of newborn infants.

In 2009, 149 priests were ordained, 21 more than of 2008 and 69% of the 4913 priests in Korea is between 20 and 40 years of age. According to statistics, by comparing the number of priests with that of the faithful, in Korea there is one priest every 1,171 faithful.

For the conclusion of the Year for Priests, celebrated on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, every diocese held a special Mass followed by community gatherings. Mass in the Archdiocese of Daegu was headed by the diocesan Bishop. Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil, who said: "The faithful honour their priests and they are proud of them. But priests must respond to this affection with personality and maturity".

The bishop then asked those present to "continue to pray for priests, called to carry out important work. Your prayers must help the clergy to work in a correct way, respecting their vocation".

The Archbishop of Kwangju, Mgr. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, said: "We are celebrating the end of Year for Priests, but we must not forget that tomorrow is the first day of a new year. Today we renew our resolution to respond to the love and help of God with prayer and with every effort to honour him. "  

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