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Pope to boost booming Asia church with South Korea trip

Published on Aug 10, 2014 10:39 AM
Pope Francis blesses a girl as he arrives for his weekly audience in the Paul VI hall in the Vatican on Aug 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis travels to South Korea this week with a message of peace for the divided peninsula on his first papal visit to Asia, where the Catholic Church is undergoing dramatic growth.

The 77-year-old will fly into Seoul on Wednesday in a trip also aimed at making up for his predecessor Benedict XVI never visiting Asia during his whole eight-year papacy.

Vatican watchers say Francis will address the whole continent on the seven-day trip where the number of Catholics, although only 3.2 per cent of the population, is rocketing.

With the Roman Catholic Church dogged by increasing secularism in the West, "it's a chance for the pontiff to flash a thumbs-up to a region upon which Catholicism is increasingly reliant", said Vatican expert John Allen, who writes for the Boston Globe.

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