Numbers Don't Lie: Catholicism is Growing

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/10/2013 07:57:00 AM
It remains remarkable how a non-negligible portion of the world population can be classified under a single church with a single leader and a single history: the Catholic Church. I've been performing religion-related research and came across a 2013 Pew Research poll describing the extent of this faith. To be sure, there is fragmentation among Christian denominations: born-agains, charismatics and so on have mixed in with Anglicans and even Catholics. However, as fads in Christianity come and go, one thing remains fairly stable in terms of global proportion and growing in terms of absolute numbers--St. Paul's brand:
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, according to a comprehensive demographic study by the Pew Research Center.

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, the Pew Research study found, 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.
Now, as then, the Catholic Church's critics are myriad. In the longer historical sweep, though, its geographic reach ostensibly in the business of saving souls is broader as stagnant-to-declining markets  (North America, Europe) are supplanted by more dynamic ones (sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific), while holding on to saturated markets (Latin America).