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Pope Francis to visit South Korea

South Korean Christians attend a protest against North Korea (AP)

Pope Francis will visit South Korea in August, the Vatican has announced.

In a statement, the Vatican press office said: “Welcoming the invitation from the President of the Republic and the Korean bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Voyage to the Republic of Korea from 14 to 18 August 2014, on the occasion of the Sixth Asian Youth Day, to be held in the diocese of Daejeon.”

Francis is expected to first visit Seoul and then Daejeon for Asian Youth Day. He is also likely to beatify a group of Korean martyrs, the Catholic News Service has reported.

According to Wikipedia, the Catholic Church in South Korea has increased its “membership by 70 per cent in the past 10 years”.

In an interview in 2012 Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, the then Archbishop of Seoul, said: “Over the past 10 years, the Catholic Church in Korea has gone from three to five million faithful. In Seoul we are 14 per cent.”

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung, the current Archbishop of Seoul, has said that after he received his red hat last month, the Pope said to him: “I love Korea.” The cardinal said he replied: “The Korean people love you, Holy Father!”