Friday, May 04, 2007

Catholics in Brazil ...

... leading up to the Holy Father's visit next week to the world's most populous Catholic nation, Fides has a story with this eye-catching headline: The Catholic Church in Brazil has stopped losing members, and the country is still home to the largest Catholic population in the world.
Río de Janeiro (Agenzia Fides) - According to a report issued by the Getulio Vargas Foundation although in the 1990s Brazil saw a drastic decline in its Catholic population, the soul drain has stopped and the numbers have remained at a stable 73.79% registered in 2003.
The report was issued a week before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI who will make a 4 day visit to the country from 9-13 May. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world although the Church has lost numerous members. In 2000 there were 125.53 million Catholics in 2003 the number had risen to 129.76 million and the Foundation says today Brazilian Catholics number around 139.24 million
The report, Study on Religions: Recent Changes, is based on statistics supplied by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in 2003 compared with those which emerged from a recent population count. The report said the number of Catholics in Brazil between 1991 and 2000 dropped from 83,34% to 73,89%. In 1940, Catholics were 95.01% of the population and then diminished gradually: 93.48% in 1950, 93.07% in 1960, 91.77% in 1970, 88.96% in 1980 and 83.34% in 1991.
On the contrary the percentage of evangelical Christians and new churches has grown: from 6.6% in 1980 to 9% in 1991 and 16.2% in 2000. The report says that although in Brazil there are 4.7 Catholics to one evangelical Christian the number of evangelical pastors is 3.7 times higher than that of Catholic pastoral workers (priests and religious): in other words there are 17.9 more evangelical pastors per believer than Catholic pastoral workers.
The report says that Catholics are more concentrated in rural areas where 19.7% of the members of the Church live. The number of Catholics is higher among adults. Whereas 73.79% of the population in general declares itself Catholic, the percentage rises to 77.53% among adults over 60. (AP) (3/5/2007 Agenzia Fides; Righe:28; Parole:347)
I don't know the scene on the ground well (sorry, that's "at all"). But, I suspect that headline might be some window-dressing based on mildly rosy statistics. One hopes it's a sign of something deeper and more long-lasting, however, of course. Perhaps I'm just too cynical. (The full-text will appear on their website tomorrow. On the first day, their news-flashes only show up in subscribers' inboxes. Go subscribe. It's free.)

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