Seoul, South Korea, Chosen as Host City for Next World Youth Day by Pope Francis

By Charles Igwe

In a significant moment showcasing the expanding influence of Asian Catholicism in the global Church, Pope Francis declared Seoul, South Korea, as the venue for the next World Youth Day (WYD) during the closing Mass of this year’s WYD in Portugal.


Addressing approximately 1.5 million young people gathered in Lisbon’s Tejo Park, the Pope announced that the WYD gathering in Seoul is scheduled for 2027, with a smaller-scale jubilee for youth planned in Rome in 2025 as part of the Jubilee of Hope.


Catholicism in South Korea has experienced remarkable growth, with the percentage of the population identifying as Catholic more than doubling from 1985 to 2005, reaching over 11% of the population. The expansion is partly attributed to Catholic activists’ leadership roles in Korea’s pro-democracy movement, with layman Kim Dae-jung, later known as the “Asian Mandela,” being a prominent figure.


The roots of Catholicism in South Korea differ from other countries, as it began with laypeople in the 18th century who brought Christian texts from China, resulting in a strong tradition of lay leadership within the Church.

Also read: Pope Francis Warns Youth on the Dangers of Virtual World Illusions

The visit of Pope Francis to Seoul in 2014 demonstrated his admiration for the laity’s involvement in the local Church, and since then, ties between South Korea and the Vatican have strengthened. The appointment of Lazzaro You Heung-sik, the first South Korean to lead a Vatican department, further solidified this connection.


During the closing Mass, Pope Francis encouraged young people to embrace three verbs: “to shine,” “to listen,” and “to be unafraid.” He stressed the importance of listening to Jesus, the source of light and love, and urged them not to fear but to share the joy they experienced during WYD events with the world.


As Seoul prepares to host the next WYD, this historic decision signals the increasing importance of Asian Catholicism in shaping the Church’s future and fostering youth engagement in the faith.

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