ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea: Catholics make up 11.3% of the total population

Thursday, 2 May 2024

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - The number of Catholics in Korea totals 5,970,675 baptized, according to data from December 31, 2023, 0.3% more than in 2022. However, the growth rate of the faithful had slowed down over the period of the pandemic (it had fallen to 0.1%), which is why the church is now experiencing a recovery. The share of Catholics in the total population remains at 11.3% for the third year in a row. This emerges from the report "Statistics of the Korean Catholic Church 2023" published by the South Korean Bishops' Conference. The statistics, published annually following a survey of the 16 dioceses, orders and ecclesiastical organizations across the country, shed light on the development of religious life on the peninsula. The overall analysis shows an upswing in the faith practice of the Catholic community in Korea, although the situation is still suffering from the long-term consequences of the pandemic. In 2023, the number of new baptisms in Korean churches totaled 51,307, up 24% from the previous year. Baptisms are divided into three types: infants (25%), adults (67.3%) and the dying (7.7%). Attendance at Sunday services is slowly recovering, the report said. The participation of believers in Sunday mass - an indicator considered important - averaged 13.5 percent for the year, an increase of 1.7 percent compared to 2022. In 2019, before the start of the pandemic, it was 18.3%, so despite the recovery it has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic level. The decline in the number of priests, seminarians and religious is also worrying: in total there are 5,721 members of the clergy in Korea, including 2 Cardinals, 40 Bishops and 5,679 priests. The number of new priests, who received the sacrament of Orders in 2023, was 75, 21 fewer than in 2022, although there were no new priests in the dioceses of Andong and Jeonju. There are also 175 religious orders in the Korean Church with 11,473 members, including consecrated men and women. The number of male religious fell by 34 compared to the previous year, and the number of female religious fell by 69. The indicators confirm that the low birth rate and the aging phenomenon - problems that are also present in Korean society - also affect the Church. The proportion of believers under the age of 19 is 6.7% while the proportion of believers over 65 years old is 26.1%. In addition, there is the phenomenon of overpopulation in metropolitan areas, which also affects the composition of Catholic communities: the number of believers in the dioceses of the metropolitan area (Seoul, Suwon, Incheon, Uijeongbu) is 55.9% of the total number of Korean believers. Commenting on the data, the Korean Catholic Institute for Pastoral Research said: "Overall, it is clear that the church's sacramental activities are in a recovery period, but believers are still finding it difficult to return to church after the shock caused by the pandemic. This problem will resolve itself over time, but it requires active efforts from local communities." (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 2/5/2024)