Catholic numbers grow in Africa, Asia, while in US Latinos moving to evangelism

(Photo: Reuters / Erik de Castro)Devotees take part in a religious procession in Manila January 9, 2010. Hundreds of thousands of devotees thronged Manila to snatch a glimpse or try to touch the centuries old black statue of Jesus Christ at the annual parade. The wooden Black Nazarene, carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippines capital in the early 17th century, is cherished by Catholics who believe it performs miracles. Catholic numbers in Asia are growing and Philippines has the highest number of baptized Catholics in Asia.

Rising megachurch super star, Alfredo De Jesus, this week by placed a spotlight on the growing flight of Catholic Latinos to the evangelical movement.

In several recent interviews, De Jesus discussed the expanding pattern of members in the Hispanic community exiting the Roman Catholic Church in favor of the evangelical brand.

"What I have seen, at least in my own experience, is this encounter with God that we didn't experience in the Catholic Church," De Jesus said to Fox News. "A system that was so rigid and God seemed so far."

De Jesus, whose New Life Church in Chicago has seen an expansion from 120 members in 2000 to 17,000 members across multiple venues by 2013, is not just speaking of his own flock.

Indeed, this is in spite of the recent report from the Vatican Monday with its 2011 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.

According to the Church, there has been a global rise in practicing Catholics from 1.196 billion in 2010 to 1.214 billion in 2011.

Also, while the traditionally Roman Catholic make-up of Latin American communities is changing, primarily in the United States, there has been a growth in conversions, as well as bishops and dioceses, in Africa and Asia.

Catholics increased by 1.5 percent at a slightly higher rate than the world's population (1.23 percent), so presence of Catholics in the world remains essentially unchanged at 17.5 percent.

For Africa the growth in the measured period was 4.3 percent, against a population increase of 2.3 percent while in Asia there was an increase in the number of Catholics higher than that of the population (2.0 percent against 1.2 percent.

The growth in the number of Catholics in America and Europe remained stable, in line with population growth at 0.3 percent.

In 2011, the total number of baptized Catholics distributed across the continents was: 16.0 percent in Africa, 48.8 percent in the Americas, 10.9 percent in Asia, 23.5 percent in Europe and 0.8 percent in Oceania.

For the United States the census says that two-thirds of the 52 million Hispanic citizens remain Catholic, but the numbers are shifting.

Today, according to the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, 20 percent of the U.S. Latino community is evangelical.

Some may find these numbers surprising, considering the recent ascension of Pope Francis, the first Latin American Pope.

"We applaud the Pope and he is Hispanic," De Jesus said. "[But] people still want a relationship with God. And if the Catholic Church does not offer that, they will continue to see an exodus from their organizations to Protestants."

It should be noted that with the influx of immigration from Mexico and Central America, the overall number of practicing Catholics in the U.S. has remained relatively stable.

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