Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 25 May |
Saint of the Day: St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

“Chase” your priests to missions, Pope tells Korea, noting “so many” vocations


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA | I.MEDIA

I.Media - published on 09/18/23

With some 5,700 priests and more than 800 seminarians, for a Catholic population of under 6 million, Korea can be a land of missionaries, Pope Francis says.

“You have the grace of so many priestly vocations; please, ‘chase them away,’ send them to the missions.” This was Pope Francis’ message to a delegation of South Korean Catholics who came to meet him on September 16, 2023, feast of the country’s first martyred priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon. The pilgrims had in fact come to the Vatican for the unveiling of a statue of this saint on the walls of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

“When I think of the intense life of this great saint, the words of Jesus come to my heart: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (Jn 12:24),” the Pope said of the 25-year-old saint who died in 1846, shortly after being ordained.  “These are words that help us to read with spiritual intelligence the beautiful story of your faith, of which St. Andrew Kim is a precious seed.” 

The saint’s father is also canonized.

Through the witness of St. Andrew Kim, the Pontiff invited the pilgrims to “discover the vocation entrusted to the Church in Korea, which is “called to a young faith, to an ardent faith that, animated by love of God and neighbor, becomes a gift.” 

“Chase away” your many priests so they can become missionaries 

In the presence of South Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, Pope Francis also noted the particularly high number of priestly vocations in the country.

According to the Pontifical Yearbook, in 2022 South Korea had 882 seminarians. It has 16 dioceses and an estimated Catholic population of about 6 million. The United States has 4,856 seminarians for a Catholic population of about 62 million.

In the Archdiocese of Seoul, for example, there is an average of 1,423 Catholics per priest, as there are about 1.5 million Catholics and just over 1,000 priests. It also has about 2,000 women religious. The Archdiocese of Mexico, by comparison, has 3,481 Catholics per priest.

Again citing St. Andrew Kim as an example, the Pope encouraged this surplus of priests to have his same “passion for spreading the gospel.”

“You have the grace of so many priestly vocations; please, ‘chase them away,’ send them to the missions, because if not, there will be more priests than people, and this will not do: Let them be missionaries elsewhere,” the Argentine Pope encouraged. “I have the experience of having seen them in Argentina and your missionaries do so much good.” 

“The Korean people, when they follow Jesus Christ, give a beautiful witness.” 

The Pope prays for peace in Korea

According to the Pontiff, the Church in Korea and the witness of St. Andrew Kim remind the universal Church that “one cannot follow Jesus without embracing his cross and that one cannot proclaim oneself a Christian without being willing to follow the way of love to the end.”

Francis also recalled St. Andrew Kim’s commitment to peace, as he experienced the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) during his time in a seminary in Macao, southern China. 

“Let us entrust to St. Andrew Kim the dream of peace of the Korean Peninsula, which is always in my thoughts and prayers,” the Pope said. “Your Church, which rises up from the laity and is made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs, regenerates itself by drawing from its roots the generous evangelical impulse of the witnesses and the appreciation of the role and charisms of the laity.” 

The Pontiff then mentioned the next World Youth Day, which will be held in Seoul in 2027. He invited Koreans to take care of their youth and help them face up to the “false myths of efficiency and consumerism” and the “illusion of hedonism.”

In preparation for WYD “I wish you to zealously devote yourselves to spreading the Word of God,” he said. 

KoreaPope FrancisVatican
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.