Pope seeks to boost Asia church

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iol pic wld_POPE-SOUTHKOREA-_0813_11 REUTERS Workers adjust a giant banner depicting Pope Francis and a welcome message to him, in Seoul. Picture: Kim Hong-Ji

Vatican City -

Pope Francis will fly to South Korea on Wednesday, bringing a message of peace to the divided peninsula and reaching out to the growing millions of Christians on the Asian continent.

Although the numbers of Catholic faithful are rising in Asia as a proportion, they still make up just 3.2 percent of inhabitants on the world's most populous continent.

For the Vatican's secretary of state Pietro Parolin, the “path of evangelism in Asia is not as rapid as we would hope”.

During his visit over August 13 to 18, the pope will “address all the countries in the continent,” Parolin told Vatican TV on Tuesday.

The 77-year-old's trip to Asia hopes to make up for his predecessor Benedict XVI never visiting the continent during his eight-year papacy.

Christianity as a whole has grown substantially over the past century in Asia. A Pew survey found that the number of Christians on the continent had increased 10-fold from 28 million in 1910 to 285 million in 2010, making up around 7 percent of the total population.

The pope is due to visit the Philippines, home to about 87 million Christians, in January 2015.

Among his appearances during this week's South Korea visit will be an address to an assembly of young Asians in order to speak to “the future of Asia”.

The pontiff's visit “to the Far East bears particular importance” given the region's place in global economy and politics, said Parolin. - Sapa-AFP


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