Catholicism is the largest organized Christian denomination in the world. The Catholic Church has played important political and social roles in different countries around the world. Brazil has more Catholics than any other country, while the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the sole entries from their respective continents.
Brazil accounts for 9.94% of the entire Catholic population in the world today. The population of Brazil is 204,259,812, and the population of Catholics in the country is 124,598,485. The prevalence of Roman Catholicism in Brazil stands at 61%. Roman Catholicism in Brazil was the product of efforts by European settlers in the 19th century. The religion was firmly established during colonization and was subsequently made the official state religion in the 19th century. Although the constitution of 1891 made Brazil a secular state, the Catholic Church remained intertwined with the political and social life in Brazil. The Catholic Church made alliances with politicians who bestowed power upon the Church.
The influence of the Catholic Church on political matters in Brazil started waning after World War II, when urbanization and education gave Brazilians more religious options. The Church became vocal in regard to social and political injustice, assuming the position of the most radical Catholic Church in the Latin America. The Catholic Church was at the forefront of the fight for democracy in the 1980’s, alongside opposition political parties and grassroots organizations. The Catholic Church in Brazil re-invented itself through Africanized masses and more empowered and charismatic clergy, to amass the huge following enjoys till today. Most festivals in Brazil are based on Catholic doctrines.
Mexico accounts for 7.86% of the Catholics found across the globe. Catholicism can be traced back to Spanish conquests that started in 1519. The Spanish considered it their mission to offer salvation to the pagan Indians. They set about to destroy indigenous temples and erect churches in their place. Conversion to Catholicism was met by resistance, which the Virgin of Guadalupe figure diluted. She had tanned skin similar to that of the native peoples, and facilitated their conversion to Catholicism. The Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe attracts thousands of Catholic pilgrims annually. The figure is a national symbol in modern Mexico.
The Roman Catholic Church played a significant role in Mexico’s independence, and enjoyed supremacy in the new republic formed thereafter, where recognized citizens had to be Catholic adherents. The Church attempted to curb the rise of liberals in the 1850’s by supporting Austrian Archduke Maximilian, to assume the position of emperor and liberal elements subsequently executed him. The government asserted controls on the activities of the Church, a move that inspired more following from the masses. Priests that were killed resisting the controls were venerated as martyrs. Catholicism in Mexico took a unique turn with the veneration of special saints and incorporation of native traditions, and elements still noticeable today. The church and the state are separate institutions in modern day Mexico. Catholicism in Mexico is expected to assert some level of influence on how Mexican views emerging issues such as homosexuality and contraception in the future.
The Philippines has a 6.56% share of all global Catholics. The population of the Philippines is 100,998,376, and the number of Catholic believers in the country is 82,212,678. The prevalence of Roman Catholicism in the country stands at 81.4%. Catholicism rapidly spread in the Philippines during Spanish colonization, largely due to lack of competition from another religions. The religion quickly became an element of national identity. Catholicism and Spanish rule became firmly integrated, and the Church was accused of taking part in social injustice. The Spanish clergy became wealthy through ownership of large tracts of land which they leased to tenants. Local priests were opposed to this situation and immersed themselves in nationalistic movements in the 19th century. The separation of the state and the church was facilitated by subsequent American rule. Influence of the Catholic Church re-emerged in the 1930s as a champion of social and political justice. The Church helped to organize the protests that overthrew the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Church and the State are separate in modern day Philippines, and the Church asserts only moral influence in the country. The Catholic Church opinions on emerging concerns such as reproduction are expected to influence the opinions of its adherents.
There are numerous pilgrimage sites in the country, and at many of these different likenesses of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, are venerated. Saints' Days in various cities and towns are celebrated, and there are also different festivals celebrated in the Philippines.
United States of America
The Catholic Church has 66,844,724 followers out the total population of 321,368,864 in the United States. The US accounts for a 5.33% of all global Catholics, which equates to 20.8% of the population in the country. Catholicism in the US was introduced by European immigrants and missionaries, amidst great native resistance. The church in the US has been vocal regarding several political and social issues over the years, such as labor, welfare, immigration, and reproductive rights. The Church, however, is separate from the state although there are numerous politicians in office who are Catholics. Strict control has recently been placed on the affairs of the Catholic Church in the US in light of sexual and negligence allegations.
Projections of Growth for Catholicism in the Years to Come
Other countries with large Catholic populations, and their respective shares of the global total Catholic population, are Italy (4.09%), Colombia (2.80%), France (3.16%), Poland (2.67%), Spain (2.67%), Argentina (2.46%), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.33%). Catholics in the world are expected to grow by an estimated 500 million by 2050. Much of this growth is expected in developing countries mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Latin America is projected to lead with Catholic population, while Catholics in Europe are expected to decrease in number.