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‘This Church is enjoying global growth on an unprecedented scale’


Pilgrims in Cracow during World Youth Days. 26th of July 2016, Cracow, Poland Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski 0048 602358885

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/08/16

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“This Church” would be the Catholic Church.  Here’s a welcome perspective, from Philip Jenkins in the Catholic Herald: 

In many parts of the world, it’s difficult to feel optimistic about the future of the Catholic Church. Some years ago, the American Physical Society heard an alarming paper that predicted the countries in the world that would have no religion whatever by 2100, and high on the list were such former Catholic heartlands as Austria and Ireland – Ireland! For over a decade now, we have heard so many appalling stories of sexual abuse and scandal that we might even be tempted to ask if the Church can really survive. It is strange then to realise that this Church – which is already, by far, the largest religious institution on the planet – is in fact enjoying global growth on an unprecedented scale. In 1950, the world’s Catholic population was 437 million, a figure that grew to 650 million by 1970, and to around 1.2 billion today. Put another way, Catholic numbers have doubled since 1970, and that change has occurred during all the recent controversies and crises within the Church, all the debates following Vatican II and all the claims about the rise of secularism. Nor does the rate of growth show any sign of diminishing. By 2050, a conservative estimate suggests there should be at least 1.6 billion Catholics.

He gives some substantive evidence, then notes:

Since 1980, the total number of African Catholics grew by 238 per cent, while the equivalent rate in Asia was 115 per cent, and 56 per cent in the Americas. Of course, if you want to see Catholic growth in action, you don’t have to make the effort to travel to Africa or Asia, as booming Catholic Africa and Asia are coming to you. In recent decades, many millions of migrants from the global South have travelled northwards, and a great many of those are Catholic. We see plenty of evidence of this in British churches, and especially in the country’s old and revived pilgrimage sites, but similar patterns can be seen across Europe. Look at the number of parishes in historically Catholic Europe – in Ireland or France, say – which are now graced by priests from Nigeria or Vietnam. This reality was brought home to me when I visited Denmark, which is historically one of the continent’s least Catholic nations. But go to a small city like Aarhus and watch the floods of people surrounding the small Catholic church, where Masses are offered in languages as diverse as Vietnamese, English, Chaldean and Tagalog (the last being the main tongue of the Philippines). The global Church comes home; or perhaps we should say, the empires strike back.

Read it all.

Stay calm and propagate on.

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