Pew Center: the shifting Catholic population remains strong

I interviewed Bishop Joseph McFadden last night at Ash Wednesday services at York College. Some of his comments did not make the story.

Pope Benedict donned a sombrero for this ride through Mexico in 2011. (The Associated Press)

He said Pope Benedict will be remembered for carrying out Pope John Paul II’s agenda, but for doing it in a different way. In other words, McFadden praised Benedict for recognizing that he did not have John Paul’s gifts for connecting with people. So Benedict went about his work in different ways.

The Year of Faith campaign directing Catholics to deepen their faith is one example.

In related news, the Pew Research Center did an analysis of the world’s Catholic population trends.

Here are the Pew study’s fascinating findings:

Over the past century, the number of Catholics around the globe has more than tripled, from an estimated 291 million in 1910 to nearly 1.1 billion as of 2010. But over the same period, the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly. As a result, Catholics have made up a remarkably stable share of all people on Earth.

In 1910, Catholics comprised about half (48%) of all Christians and 17% of the world’s total population, according to historical estimates from the World Christian Database. A century later, Catholics still comprise about half (50%) of Christians worldwide and 16% of the total global population.

What has changed substantially over the past century is the geographic distribution of the world’s Catholics.

In 1910, Europe was home to about two-thirds of all Catholics, and nearly nine-in-ten lived either in Europe (65%) or Latin America (24%). By 2010, by contrast, only about a quarter of all Catholics (24%) were in Europe.
The largest share (39%) were in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Rapid growth also has occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, which today is home to about 171 million Catholics (16%), up from an estimated 1 million (less than 1%) in 1910.
There also has been rapid growth in the vast Asia-Pacific region, where 130 million Catholics (12%) now live, up from 11 million (4%) a century ago.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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