Monday, 31 March 2008

Catholics lose lead in religious league table

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It's been widely reported that for the first time in its history the Catholic Church has lost it's position as the religion with the most adherents worldwide.

While for accuracy's sake it's worth pointing out that these (Vatican-produced) figures don't seem to distinguish between different branches of Islam (while making the distinction between Protestantism, Catholicism etc), they reveal that 19.2% of the world's population are Muslim compared to 17.4% Catholic.

Now, I'm not sure this story in itself is that surprising given the regions of the world where various religions are stronger and so on, but what really struck me were the comments by Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, editor of 'the Vatican's new statistics yearbook'. First let's point out that this doesn't seem to be a joke – this yearbook actually does exist, like a kind of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack for Catholicism. And secondly, let's have a look at what Monsignor Formenti had to say: "For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us."

My first instinct here was to say "well, it's not a competition", but then I realised it kind of is, what with the race to convert heathens and so on. But I do like how he sounded like a football manager who'd just been overtaken at the top of the league. And like any good gaffer (it's a shame the Pope didn't make these comments), Formenti's backing the Church of Rome to bounce back in the population race, describing Africa as a "grand resource" for Catholicism. Wise words, as if they keep telling their adherents there not to use contraception, they might just get back in the game.