Brazil: The Number of Catholics at its Lowest
Brazilian Catholics now represent only 68% of the population, which is the lowest total since 1871. This is indicated by the “new map of religions” published on August 24 by the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a week after Rio de Janeiro had been designated as the city that would host the next World Youth Days in 2013.
The study, realized in the context of a census of family budgets, thus reveals that between 2003 and 2009, the percentage of Brazilian Catholics fell from 73.7% to 68.4%. With 130 million faithful, Brazil nonetheless remains the world’s first Catholic country.
The greatest drop concerned the young people from ages 10 to 19, which went from 74.1% to 67.4%. Rio (49%) and the Amazon State of Roraima (46%) are the regions that have the fewest Catholics. “If this diminution of 1% per year were to continue, less than half the Brazilian population will be Catholic in 20 years. This diminution of 1% was the country’s total for the last 100 years,” declared Marcelo Neri, the director of the study.
The Foundation’s study also showed that, during the same period, the Evangelicals went from 16 to 20%, the “no religion” from 5 to 7%, and the “alternative religions” from 3 to 5%.
Already in October 2005, during the Bishops’ Synod, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop of Sao Paulo (Brazil) had spoken of the state of Catholicism in Brazil and South America: “According to the statistics of the Brazilian government and the research done by the Church of Brazil, the number of Brazilians who declare themselves Catholic has rapidly diminished, on an average of 1% every year. In 1991, Catholic Brazilians were 83% of the population; today, according to new studies, they are scarcely 67%. We ask ourselves with anguish: how much longer will Brazil still be a Catholic country? In keeping with the situation, we already observe that for every Catholic priest there are two Protestant pastors, essentially in the service of Pentecostal Churches. (…) Many indications show that the same phenomenon is to be found in almost all of Latin America and, there too, we wonder: how much longer will Latin America be a Catholic continent?” (Sources: apic/misna/cns/imedia – DICI#241, October 1, 2011)
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