Cardinal Claudio Hummes’ comments to the Synod of Bishops reflected increasing concern in the Roman Catholic Church about the competition for souls in Latin America and Africa.
Hummes cited Brazilian government and church data that found that Brazil’s Catholics, who represented about 90 percent of the country’s population in the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, had fallen to 83 percent in 1991 and 67 percent today.
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At the same time, for every Catholic priest in Brazil, there are now two Protestant ministers, he said, according to a summary of his remarks released by the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out on a few occasions about the threats to the Catholic faith posed by Protestant groups.
In a homily on April 18, the first day of the conclave that elected him pope, he denounced the “dictatorship of relativism” in the world and cited the Protestant groups, as well as Marxism, liberalism, atheism and agnosticism, as threats to the fundamental truths of the church.
More recently, in a speech to priests in northern Italy, the pope lamented that Protestants were attracting Africans looking for religion beyond their traditional faiths.