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The Dwindling Number of Catholics in Latin America

Renee de la Torre - El Universal
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September 6, 2017
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Catholicism is no longer the religious monopoly in Latin America (The Tico Times)

In America Latina, where a vast majority of the society identifies as Catholic, a deep religious change is taking place despite the differences in rhythm and intensity between countries. While Catholicism used to be an element of cultural unity and historical identity, now there is a religious reconfiguration that is challenging its monopoly on society.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows the population in America Latina is going through a huge cultural change, considering that up to 1960, 90% of the population identified as Catholic, but figures from 2014 have shown the percentage fall to 69%. This decrease is related to the increase in Evangelical population, which comprises 19% of the continent.

Pentecostalism is the main agent of change, and despite having its origins in North America, the religion has crossed borders and morphed into a Latin American Christianism, where solidarity and a sense of moral community have set it apart from the individualistic and liberal sense of classical Protestantism.

In today's globalized world, several Latin American churches can be considered similar to missionary enterprises in expansion, moving counterclockwise from the missionary Catholicism and Protestantism which brought religion from Europe to the colonies within the American continent.

To further understand the impact of this change in society and politics, we must first clarify that Pentecostalism isn't a monolithic religion. It's a religious movement with hundreds of independent organizations of different ideologies, sizes, and organizations. Nevertheless, it's precisely these internal differences which have spoken to the people and caused a public and political impact in Latin America.

Thus, Catholicism is no longer the religious monopoly in Latin America, although in many countries it still exercises the rights of a dominant religion. This is a sensitive issue for the Vatican, considering Latin America has the most concentration of Catholics in the world, even more so now that Europe is experiencing a dechristianization process and its society seems threatened by the increasing number of Muslims.

Read the rest at El Universal

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