The Catholic Church - today and tomorrow

  (09 May 10)

For centuries, the Catholic Church was unquestionably strongest in Europe. In 1900, the continent accounted for perhaps two-thirds of the Church's nearly 270 million members. Latin America had another 70 million believers, while Africa barely appeared on the map, with about two million followers. As Anglo-French sage Hilaire Belloc proclaimed in 1920, “The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.”

Since then, and especially since the 1960s, Catholicism has been moving south. Partly, this is due to evangelism sponsored by the Church and its religious orders; new conversions, for instance, have surged in Africa. But shifting demographics have also played its part: While populations have increased modestly in Europe, they have boomed across the global south—and Catholic numbers have grown apace. Today, the world has 900 million more Catholics than it did in 1900, but only 100 hundred million of those new additions are Europeans.


So reports Philip Jenkins in a recent report for The New Republic. This is an insightful analysis of the condition of the global Catholic Church of today – and of tomorrow.


One point Jenkins doesn't raise in his article is that of the 'purity' of the Catholic faith in Africa.

While Benedict XVI might be happy to claim millions of Africans as Catholic, he probably doesn't want to look too closely at what those people actually believe and practice.

Witchcraft, for example, is alive and well among many African Catholics. (Not that syncretism doesn't happen elsewhere, even in good old Oz.)

Posted by Greg

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