Roman Catholic Church Demographics: A Century of Change

Church Demographics: A Century of Change, a Shift to the Southern Hemisphere

Catholic Demographics 1910-2010

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Map by Marlene Leung & Jason Wiese/CTV News

Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio made history. The 76-year-old Archbishop of Buenos Aires became Pope Francis I and spiritual leader to the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Bergoglio is the first pope from the Americas. His selection is a break from centuries of tradition, and a reflection of the church’s changing demographics.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, over the past 100 years Catholics have comprised a steady share of the world’s population: in 1910, approximately 17 per cent; and in 2010, 16 per cent.

While the proportion has remained remarkably constant over time, the regional distribution of the world’s Catholics has experienced a significant shift. In 1910 most of the world’s Catholics lived in Europe. Fast forward 100 years, and the greatest proportion of the world’s Catholics now live in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the rapid growth of the church in Sub-Saharan Africa boosted the Catholic population in the region to more than 171 million in 2010, representing 16 per cent of the world’s Catholics. In 1910, the region had less than one per cent of the world’s Catholics, numbering around 1.2 million.