The Changing Face of the Catholic Population Around the World

In light of the recently announced resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published an analysis detailing how the distribution of Catholics has drastically changed over time. In 1910, 65% of the Catholic population could be found in Europe, while only 24% of Catholics resided in Latin America and the Caribbean, and less than 1% lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2010, the Catholic population significantly decreased in Europe but increased in the developing world. As of 2010, 39% of Catholics lived in Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by 24% in Europe, and 16% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Interestingly, the distribution of Catholics has remained stable in North Africa and the Middle-East over the past 100 years. In 1910, less than 1% of Catholics resided in the Middle East-North African region, and a century later the percentage of Catholics in the region still remains under 1%.

Upon examining the percentage of Catholics within each region, the Pew Research Center also found that Catholics overwhelmingly dominated Latin America. Nearly 72% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is Catholic, followed by 35% in Europe, 26% in North America, 21% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 3% in the Asia-Pacific region, and 2% in the Middle East.

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