By Morgan Lee (Christianity Today)
Enthusiasm for the first pope picked from Latin America has prompted predictions of a “Francis effect” revival among the region’s Roman Catholics. Time will tell, but a new report shows exactly what the former Archbishop Bergoglio of Buenos Aires is up against in his own backyard: Protestants are remarkably ascendent across 18 nations and one US territory.
For most of the last century, more than 90 percent of Latin Americans identified as Catholics. But now that number has hit a new low: 69 percent, according to a thorough report on this “widespread change” released today by the Pew Research Center. Regionally, 84 percent of Latin American adults were raised as Catholics. But nearly 1 in 5 adults (19 percent) now identify as Protestants, while only 1 in 10 (9 percent) were raised as Protestants. (Similarly, the religiously unaffiliated have doubled from 4 percent as children to 8 percent as adults.)
“In nearly every country surveyed, the Catholic Church has experienced net losses from religious switching,” noted Pew, and “much of the movement … has occurred in the span of a single lifetime.” In most countries, more than one-third of current Protestants were raised as Catholics, and more than half were baptized as Catholics.
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Pew’s findings corroborate an examination of 18 nations last year by Latinobarómetro. “In the past, Latin America was completely dominated by Catholicism,” noted the respected Chilean research group. “Today, it’s a region where clearly more than one religion exists.”
Pew researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 30,000 residents of 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico as part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project. (Cuba was the only Spanish-speaking country omitted.) Latin America contains more than 425 million Catholics—nearly 40 percent of the world’s total Catholic population, according to Pew….
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