Pope Francis has warned South Korea's Catholic bishops not to let their country's 'prosperous, yet increasingly secularised and materialistic society' distract the Church from its essential duty to evangelise, reports the Catholic News Service.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the southern half of the peninsula has risen from poverty to become the world's 13th-largest economy - good fortune that Pope Francis said posed cultural and spiritual perils.
'In such circumstances, it is tempting for pastoral ministers to adopt not only effective models of management, planning and organisation drawn from the business world, but also a lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel,' the Pope said yesterday at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.
Pope Francis met with the bishops on the first day of a five-day trip to South Korea, his first pastoral visit to Asia. Earlier in the day, he met privately with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The Pope told the bishops that the life and mission of the Korean Church must be measured in the 'clear light of the Gospel and its call to conversion to the person of Jesus Christ.'
Pope Francis also celebrated what he described as the characteristic virtues of the Church in Korea, including its tradition of lay leadership, starting with the 18th-century nobles who converted after reading Catholic books imported from China. He cited this history as an inspiring counter-example to a problem he has frequently criticised: an excessive deference by laypeople to bishops and priests.
The first Korean Christians 'did not have the temptation of clericalism, they were able to go on alone' to the found the Church, the Pope said.
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