The greatest challenge to the Catholic Church today is to become inculurated in Asia. The future of the 21st Century is in Asia. Asia is home to over 60% of the world's people with more than 40% under the age of 15. The five countries with the largest populations are : China, India Indonesia, Japan and Bangladesh. Both China and India have over a billion people.
Different from the West, Asia is a mosaic of different cultures, ethnic groups, social, economic and political systems and the homeland of three great world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. 85% of the world's non-Christians are in Asia.
There are around one hundred million Catholics in Asia or about 2.9% of the population. If we exclude the Philippines, the percentage drops to less than 1% . However, the Church is growing continuously. In 10 years the number of Catholics increased by 25% with a growing number of priests and Sisters.There are presently 32,291 priest in Asia and more than twice that number of Sisters. Asia has 617 Bishops out of 4,400 bishops in the world.
If one were to shrink the world population into a village of 100 people, 57 would be Asians, 21 from Europe, 14 from the Americas and 8 from Africa.There would be 70 people of colour and 30 would be white. 67 would be non-Christian and 33 would be Christians, Out of 100 people 70 would not be able to read; 50 would suffer from malnutrition and only one would have a university education.
One of the greatest challenges facing the Church in this Century is to evangelize the people of Asia and have Christianity become truly an Asian religion. Missionaries and all Asian Christians have to be creative, innovative, able to dialogue with different religions and be open to different approaches to Gospel proclamation. As the Bishops told us at the Asian Synod-we will learn a new way of being the Church in Asia. Our greatest reason for hope is Jesus Christ Himself, who said, "Take heart it is I: have no fear... I have overcome the world." And we shouldn't forget that Jesus Himself was born in Asia.
Below is the statistical report for the Catholic Church published by the Catholic Bishops of Korea.
According to the Statistics, as of December 31, 2008, the number of Catholics in Korea amounted to 5,004,115 or 9.9% of the total population (50,394,374). It indicates an increase of 130,000 (2.7%) from the previous year.
With regard to dioceses, the Archdiocese of Seoul had the most number of the faithful as 1,384,238, followed by the Diocese of Suwon (718,638), the Archdiocese of Daegu (442,794), the Diocese of Incheon (427,960) and the Diocese of Pusan (409,587).
The rate of Evangelization comparing with the population came to over 10 % in the dioceses of Incheon, Suwon, Cheongju and Cheju, along with the Archdiocese of Seoul, which hit the highest rate of 13.6%.
The Statistics indicated that the number of the newly baptized was 32,124 in the Archdiocese of Seoul, 18,411 in the Diocese of Suwon, and 10,275 in the Diocese of Incheon. The Military Ordinariate recorded 28,213 newly baptized, who were mostly young soldiers.
By age group, the male faithful in their 20s had the highest number at 18.9%, followed by those in their 40s at 17%, those in their 30s at 15,6% and those in their 50s at 15,2%, while the largest group of the female faithful were those in their 40s and 50s. The Statistics also categorized the faithful by sex (male 41.6% and female 58.4%).
The Statistics also indicated that the number of clergy in Korea amounted to 4,204, including foreign missionary priests. Among them, 3,477 were diocesan priests and 726 were religious and missionary priests. The total number of Korean priests were 4,026, which showed an increase of 101 from the previous year, while the total number of cardinals and bishops were 31.
By diocese, the Archdiocese of Seoul had the highest number of the clergy as 701, followed by the Archdiocese of Daegu (406), the Diocese of Suwon (371) and the Diocese of Pusan (315). The dioceses of Cheju, Andong, Chuncheon and Wonju had 35, 74, 95, 96 priests respectively.
However, the number of seminarians was 1,413 in 7 Seminaries, few change from the previous year (1,403).
The number of parishes was 1,543, an increase of 32, while the number of mission stations was 1,037, a decrease of 47 from the previous year. The number of the faithful per priest was 1,190. The parishes were only 50 in 1908, but they have continuously increased, so that they amounted to 500 in 1976, 1,017 in 1995 and 1,511 in 2007.
With regard to men and women religious, there were 1,445 men religious, including novices, religious in temporary and final vows as well as foreign religious, which showed a decrease of 19, while 10,401 women religious were counted in 2008, an increase of 186 from the previous year.
The number of the celebrations of the Sacrament of Matrimony amounted to 26,182 in 2008, of which 15,324 were marriages between a baptized and non-baptized, which accounted for 58.6%.
With regard to devotional associations, the number of Legion of Mary members was the highest with 261,610, followed by Cursillo members (8,898) and the members of the Marriage Encounter (7,488).
The number of Sunday School attendants (from the age of 7 to 19) amounted to 647,159, of which only 11% was counted regular attendants. The Sunday School teachers were counted up to 17,775, and Primary and Middle & High School students attending Sunday Mass were reported respectively as 132,895 and 71,452.
The rate of participation at Sunday Mass reached 24% on average, which means that one of four faithful attends Sunday Mass. The number of faithful, who received the Sacrament of Confession as Easter duty and Christmas duty in 2008 was 1,052,729 (29.5%), and 1,116,053 (30.6%) respectively. It was figured out that the faithful received the Sacrament of Confession as duty once a year on average, while they received the Communion twenty times on average in 2008.