Brazilian Catholics

Is Brazil on the Way to No Longer Being the Country with the Greatest Number of Catholics in the World?

The possibility exists of the proportion of Catholics falling under the 50% threshold

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(ZENIT News / Porto Alegre, 14.08. 2023).- Given the scenario of religious transformations in Brazil, the country’s National Conference of Bishops (NCBB) is facing an unprecedented challenge: the possible loss of the title “the world’s most Catholic country.” This concern arises from the perspective that the number of Catholic faithful might decrease to a point under 50% in relation to the total population. This phenomenon has led the NCBB to design bold strategies to counteract the evasion of believers and Catholics’ growing migration to other expressions of Christianity. 


Monsignor Jaime Spengler, Archbishop of Porto Alegre and President of the NCBB has shared his concern with the Vatican media, acknowledging that the decline is an issue that weighs on the Church. In this context, the Archbishop warned about the possibility that Brazil, a nation rooted in the Catholic Tradition, might cede its prominence in the global religious ambit with the publication of the results of the 2022 Census, carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. The possibility also exists that the proportion of Catholics might fall under the 50% threshold.


“This data must be considered carefully,” pointed out the Brazilian ecclesiastical leader, who is also President of the Episcopal Council of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM). “There are forecasts that when the results of the Census are divulged, we might find ourselves in a situation in which we Catholics represent less than 50% of the population. This is, undoubtedly, a situation that causes us concern,” added the President of the NCBB.


In response to this urgent challenge, Archbishop Spengler has urged the lay faithful, as well as priests and religious, to reflect profoundly on their role as “salt of the earth,” “light of the world” and “yeast in the dough,” concepts taken for Saint Matthew’s Gospel. These biblical metaphors have emerged as an inspiring proposal to address the current obstacles and reaffirm religious commitment in the midst of the changing circumstances. 


The Archbishop stressed that the purpose is to find a language that is able to transmit the message to the different generations present in the contemporary society. This acquires special relevance in a social context marked by profound inequalities, but also characterized by notable technological advances. The NCBB is determined to maintain a meaningful dialogue with the different age groups, addressing their concerns and aspirations, in an effort to restore and enrich the presence of Catholicism in Brazil’s social fabric.

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