Across much of the globe, the history of Roman Catholicism from the 15th Century through the 18th Century was largely synonymous with Spanish Colonialism. Spanish conquests and colonization of nations ranging from Asia to the Americas had increased Christian converts by the millions. These conversions later led to the full conversion of countries to Christianity. However, during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, many liberal governments started to promote anti-clerical laws which would cut down the authority of the Catholic Church withing their countries' borders. These laws soon led to the annihilation of many religious leaders' power, and the destruction of the Church's presence in governance.
The Explosion of Catholicism
Christian Catholicism was one of the means that the Spanish government used to colonize the New World. The real objective was to extend Spanish sovereignty over these nations. Although conversion to Christianity was a byproduct of Spanish rule and slavery, it was actually the Catholic Church in the Americas that raised its voice against slavery and cruelty to natives. Then, the 19th Century started the Vatican control of these colonies, and even allowed for the ordination of native clergy. These developments gave way to full Catholicism of Spain's former colonies, an effect that still lives on today.
Catholic Populations By Country
Brazil tops the list of countries with the most Catholic Christians at 133.7 million faithful or 65% of its total population. Fifty-seven percent of the population over the age of 16 are Catholic. Second on the list is Mexico with about 96.3 million Catholic Christians. Catholics count as 82.5% of the total population. Third is the Philippines with about 75.9 million Catholic Christians. It is more than 86% of the total population. Fourth is the United States with about 74.5 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 22% of the total population. Fifth is Italy with about 50.3 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 87.8% of the total population. Sixth is Colombia with about 38.1 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 79% of the total population. Seventh is France with about 37.9 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 45% of the total population. Eighth is Poland with about 35.3 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 92.2%% of the total population. Ninth is Spain with about 34.7 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 68% of the total population. Tenth is the Democratic Republic of Congo with about 31.2 million Catholic Christians. It counts as 50% of the total population.
Historical, Cultural, and Geopolitical Significance of Catholicism
The legacies left by the Spanish Conquistadors are still evident today, and can be seen in the majority of Catholic Christian populations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Historically, Catholic priests improved the lives of the indigenous peoples. The Clergy in converting the natives disallowed freedom of religion which today still persists in most areas. The separation of state and church began in the early 19th Century and spread to almost all former Spanish possessions. These provocations of the church led to many excommunications. Political repercussions and religious persecutions became the norm in the mid-20th Century when governments tried to stop the clergy from siding with the poor. As a result, "Liberation Theology" was introduced, and the movement gained ground. Conversely, today "Christian Revival" movements hope to supplant the former.