Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Some fell along the path . . . . other seed fell on good soil"

"St. Francis Xavier in Japan", Utsumi

In August, Pope Francis will be travelling to South Korea, where Catholics make up more than 10% of the population.  Catholicism arrived in Korea fairly recently, having been carried there by laymen at the end of the 19th century.   In 1960, there were only about 100,000 Korean Catholics; today there are 5.3 million, and their numbers are increasing rapidly.   Meanwhile, in nearby Japan, despite almost five centuries of effort by many missionaries (including some very famous ones), Catholics make up only .35% of the population.   Why the dramatic difference in receptiveness to Catholicism between the two neighboring countries?  Fr. Piero Gheddo, dean of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan, is an expert on the subject, and presents his thoughts here.  Fr. Gheddo's answer also helps explain why Japan is dying, while South Korea is thriving.

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