(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Crowds holding yellow and white flags stood cheering in the sunshine as Pope Francis conducted mass in Seoul, where he beatified 124 South Koreans. Francis spoke of the great sacrifices of the men and women who, in the 18th and 19th centuries, were killed for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith.
Beatification is the first step toward sainthood and ceremonies like this one have taken place with increasing frequency in the last number of decades-- a surefire way of drawing media attention to the Catholic church as its church attendance numbers dwindle in the West.
The importance of the ceremony is especially strong in Asia, where the Vatican has its sights set on growth. In the past 50 years, the South Korean Catholics have gone from comprising 1% of the population to 10%.
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