The Peace Weekly in their review of the report mentioned several interesting items: for the last 10 years there has been stagnation or a decrease in the number of Buddhists and Protestants, and the report sees this trend continuing. The National Statistical Office in 2005 reported that the number of Catholics to be 11 percent, Protestants 18 percent, and Buddhist 23 percent.
The report used the numbers from the Office of Statistics, which shows a yearly increase in the number of Catholics. Government surveys every ten years, going back to 1985, also show the increases have been steady, and in 2005 there was a 74.6 percent increase, other religions showing no increase. The future, if the conditions continue without any major changes, will see, according to the report, Catholicism with 56 percent of the population in 30 years.
For Catholics the response, as expected, was positive, but it carried a cautionary note that it was unreal to overlook the possibility that successful efforts in the past will not necessarily continue.
The Peace Weekly, using the information from the Religious Study Department of Seoul University, attributed these past results to Catholic solidarity and integrity, justice and human rights activities, flexibility in being present at the ceremonials of life, openness to other religions, and the efforts of individual Catholics.
However, starting in 2000 we have seen the weakening of these dynamic forces, resulting in stagnation of spiritual vitality--in some measure because of our aging Catholics--a drop in Catholics attending Mass and an increase in the number of tepids, and a less aggressive evangelizing of society. The lack of effort in evangelizing, especially, may have been the major contributor to a slow down of Catholic population growth in 2010 to a 1.7 percent increase.
With materialism, secularism and atheism on the increase, it is difficult to see the future with much optimism. But the encouraging news for the future of Catholicism, that it is seen favorably by so many, as indicated by the report, should make our outreach to society easier.
This year, starting in October, we will begin the Year of Faith. If the Church continues to work on improving its methods of evangelization, it will be able to take advantage of the favorable conditions in society.