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S. Korea: Catholicism's unlikely Asian pillar

Catholic nuns walk along the Han river in Seoul at dusk on August 1, 2014When Pope Francis visits South Korea next week, he will find a thriving Catholic community with a social and political influence that belies its minority status in one of Christianity’s most muscular Asian strongholds. The visit will recognise the vicious persecution of early Korean Catholics, with the beatification by Francis of 124 martyrs executed for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries. For many first-time visitors to Seoul, a common take-away memory is the surprising multitude of neon crosses glowing across the South Korean capital’s nightscape. Korean Christianity is particularly pro-active and evangelical, sending more missionaries abroad than any other country apart from the United States.

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