Researchers from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, recently published a study on Sunday practice within the Catholic Church in the world.
CARA scholars used data from the World Values Survey (WVS), an international study of religious belief conducted for decades, to examine 36 countries with large Catholic populations. They ranked these countries by the percentage of Catholics reporting attending Mass once a week or more, excluding weddings, funerals, and baptisms.
Nigeria and Kenya have the highest proportion of Catholics who attend Mass once a week or more, with Nigeria being the clear leader: 94% of Catholics in the country say they attend Mass at least once a week. In Kenya, this figure is 73%, and in Lebanon, it is 69%.
This frequent Sunday attendance in Nigeria is explained in particular by the very risky situation for Catholics in the country. It suffices to recall the 11 Catholics were killed in January of this year, 46 others in December and 50 more last Pentecost. Not to mention the priests who have been killed, the latest having been burned alive on January 15th. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, as Tertullian said.
In the Philippines practicing Catholics reach 56%, in Colombia 54%, in Poland 52%, and in Ecuador 50%.
Bosnia reaches almost half of practitioners (48%), as well as Mexico (47%), and Nicaragua (45%), followed by Bolivia (42%) and Slovakia (40%). Finally, Italy (34%), Peru (33%), and Venezuela (30%) remain above thirty percent.
Continuing to descend, the practice is 29% in Albania, 27% in Spain and Croatia, and 25% in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Hungary and Slovenia both have 24% of practitioners, Uruguay is a point below at 23%, followed by Australia and Argentina at 21%, then Portugal and Czechia at 20%.
Austria is only at 17%, the same rate as the United States, followed by Lithuania at 16%, Germany and Canada at 14%, Latvia and Switzerland at 11%, Brazil and France at 8%, and finally the Netherlands at 7%.
First of all, there is no real link between practice and the feeling of religious belonging. Thus three-quarters of American Catholics consider themselves to be “religious,” but only 17% practice. In France, more than 70% of Catholics consider themselves to be “religious,” but only 7% practice. The only two countries where the correlation is true are Nigeria and Lebanon.
In contrast, countries with higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita have lower attendance levels and vice versa. The curve is a descending hyperbola from Nigeria to Switzerland.
Describing this mechanism precisely is more difficult, but the correlation is striking. However, behind this criteria, or jointly with it, others things exert influence, such as secularization, but also the terrible crisis that is hitting the Church, and the incomprehensibility of the magisterium in its proper teaching function since the Second Vatican Council.