As Columbia prepares to welcome Pope Francis from September 6 to 10, 2017, the Holy See Press Office published the statistics of the Church in the country on August 29, 2017.
Nicknamed “el pais del Sagrado Corazón”, “the country of the Sacred Heart”, Columbia is a country where the Catholic Faith is still deeply anchored. It was the official religion of State until 1991, but now the Constitution imposes “freedom of worship and equality of all beliefs before the law” and there is no official religion. Article 1 defines this “democratic, participative and pluralistic” Republic as “founded upon respect for human dignity”. This is an example of the application of the Second Vatican Council, which that secularized Catholic States everywhere by substituting human rights for God’s rights, and the sacrosanct dignity of the human person for the sanctity of the Triune God.
This country in northwestern South America nonetheless has the seventh most Catholics in the world, right behind France and before Spain. According to the statistics established on December 31, 2015, 45.3 million of the 48.1 million Columbians (94%) are baptized. The Holy See, relayed by the press agency I.Media on August 29, 2017, points out that according to a survey conducted last June, 72% of Columbians declare themselves Catholics (as opposed 65% in France), and 15% say they belong to other Christian confessions.
Religious practice is widespread and public. There is no place for human respect, as signs of piety and Christian attitudes are everywhere, both in homes and in the streets or shops, in many institutions, public transportation, schools, and even businesses.
Present in Columbia since the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century, the Church is currently organized into 78 ecclesiastical territories, composed of almost 4,400 parishes and 2,769 other pastoral centers. There are 128 bishops. Of the four native Columbian cardinals, one is still in office and a papal elector, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogota.
There are 9,560 priests (15,000 in France, but more than half are over 75), 7,236 of whom are diocesan priests, which makes one priest for 4,734 Catholics. As far as vocations go, 3,416 men are currently studying in the seminary, which is 7.55 seminarians for every 100,000 Catholics. 33,300 laymen are committed as “missionaries” and nearly 55,400 as catechists.
The institutions run by the Church include 4,000 schools with 1.5 million students, or 20% of school children (7.5 million in 2014), 124 high schools and universities with 239,000 students. In the healthcare and social arenas, the Church runs 100 hospitals, 120 clinics and two leper centers, as well as 383 homes for the elderly and disabled and 604 orphanages and nurseries.
According to a survey in 2015, the Catholic Church is the institution the Columbians trust the most (63%), over the army (55%), Evangelical sects (52%), and the government (50%).