Worldwide: Do Muslims outnumber Catholics?

Source: FSSPX News


Last February 29, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, presented the Holy Father with the 2008 edition of the Pontifical Directory, in the presence of Mgr. Fernando Filoni, Deputy Assistant of the Secretariat of State for general affairs and of the producers of the new volume. Each year the new directory updates the statistics of the Catholic Church in the world and lists the Church hierarchy. The new directory presents statistics from the year 2006, through the 2,923 ecclesiastical districts of the world. Published in 10,000 copies, the “red book” of the Church, as L’Osservatore Romano calls it, runs to more than 2,000 pages. It is available in bookshops from the month of April at a price of 75 euros. The compiling of the directory was entrusted to Mgr. Vittorio Formenti, head of the Central Office for Statistics of the Church, to Professor Enrico Nenna and to their associates.

The accompanying note indicates that in 2007 eight new dioceses were created, as well as an Apostolic Prefecture, two Archiepiscopal Sees, and an Apostolic Vicariate. The Church has 169 new bishops.

 Between 2005 and 2006, the number of Catholics passed 1,115 million to 1,131 million, that is to say an increase of 1.4%, the number of bishops from 4,842 to 4,898 (1.2% increase). The priests, diocesan and religious alike, numbered 406,411 in 2005 and 407,263 in 2006 (0.21% more). If their numbers have grown between 2000 and 2006, it is because the number of clergy is increasing in Africa and Asia, whereas in Europe and America, it is diminishing.

 L’Osservatore Romano, in its March 30 edition announced that the number of Muslims (19.2%) in the world is greater than the number of Catholics (17.4%), according to the 2008 edition of the Pontifical Directory.

 The figures are based on the 2006 data, in particular that of the UN, pointed out Mgr. Vittorio Formenti, responsible for the Directory since 1996. But if one adds together the numbers of Christians of different confessions – Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants – this figure “represents 33% of the world population,” he continued, explaining the increase in the number of Muslims by the number of children within families of this faith, whereas “Christian families have a tendency to have fewer and fewer children.” It is Latin America which remains the territory where Catholics are more numerous, making up 49.8% of the population in the two Americas. The total number of Catholics, nevertheless continues to increase “because the world population is increasing,” concluded Mgr. Formenti.

 In an interview with the French television channel LCI, Odon Vallet, a religious historian, pointed out that the number of Catholics is calculated using “baptismal registers”, but for the Muslims, “every child of a Muslim is himself considered a Muslim.” And “in the absence of registers in Arab countries, the number of Christians and immigrants from non-Muslim countries is subtracted from the population of the country.” Now, “there are countries like Saudi Arabia where it is very difficult to not declare oneself a Muslim.” Thus he concludes: “These figures say nothing about religious practice. What is more, in order to make a meaningful comparison, we should either compare the number of Christians (Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox…who are estimated by the Vatican at 33% of the world population) with the total number of Muslims, or else compare Catholics with only the Sunni Muslims (85% of Muslims).” (Sources: