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Latin America Pentecostal surge dents Catholic population figure

While the overall Catholic poulation grew in 2003, there was a slight but notable drop in the percentage of Catholic population in South America, due to the growing presence of Protestant evangelists.

Catholic World News reports that the world's Catholic population grew by 9.47 million in 2003, to reach a total of 1.07 billion. The figures were contained in a report released by the Vatican on Sunday, which was observed as World Mission Sunday.

The number of Catholics rose fastest in the Americas, where the Church added 6.2 million members. (The Vatican treats North and South America as a single continent for statistical purposes; the vast bulk of that growth came in South America.) Among the world's continents, only Europe saw a loss (of 674,000) in Catholic population

However the percentage of Catholics in the overall world population declined slightly: by roughly 0.01%. The drop in the%age of Catholic population was, oddly enough, also greatest in America, with Protestant evangelists in Latin America helping to bring the overall Catholic representation down by 0.42%. Only Asia saw a very slight (0.01%) increase in Catholic representation.

These figures came from an annual report submitted by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe (pictured), the prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation. That Congregation, which monitors the work of the Church in the missionary territories, has supervisory jurisdiction over 40% of Catholic world.

The number of active priests in the world held almost perfectly steady, with a net decrease of just 9 worldwide. But the ranks of men in the priesthood swelled in the mission territories, and in both Africa and Asia the ratio of priests to laymen improved markedly.

The number of women religious dropped significantly, by 9,385. There were 143,745 lay evangelists active in 2002, the vast majority of them (134,646) working in America.

Catholic population slightly up, annual report shows (Catholic World News 25/10/04)

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Slip in%age of Catholics world population (CathNews 12/5/04)
Percentage of Catholics in the World Slips (Zenit 10/5/04)
Annuario Pontificio 2004
World Catholic population passes one billion (CathNews 10/2/03)
Vatican statistics reveal less religious priests (12/2/02)
Vatican yearbook reveals Holy Year statistics (2/7/01)

26 Oct 2004