Ties to faith low among European Catholics, survey finds

As Pope Francis officially takes over the reins of the Roman Catholic Church, a recent report by the Pew Research Center reveals that the commitment of European Catholics to their faith remains low.

However, the report published March 5, found that it is stable despite the otherwise poor showing in Catholicism's birthplace.

During the last decade there has been no revival of faith in the four European  countries with the largest Catholic populations.  Pew asked Catholics in France, Germany, Spain and Italy how important religion is in their lives.

The highest commitment to faith among Catholics has been in Germany, the birthplace of Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.  However, the percentage of German Catholics who indicate that religion is very important to them has  fluctuated since the retired pope became pontiff in 2005.

About half of the German respondents said religion was very important to them  a year after their native pope was elected.  By 2007 that number had dropped to 36 percent.  This figure has gotten no higher than 42 percent since then.

French Catholics showed the lowest commitment to faith.  

In France,  the percentage of those who say that religion is very important to them has been no higher than 15 percent since 2002. 

In Spain only a third of Catholics say that religion is very important in their lives. Only a quarter of Italians do so. 

The Pew study also revealed other significant characteristics present among European Catholics. Few of them say that they pray daily or attend mass at least once a week.

The results of the overall findings of the study are consistent with attitudes toward religion found among the general European population.

The Catholic presence in Europe has been steadily declining since at least the middle of the 1970s.  This trend continued under Pope Benedict.

This was despite his highly publicized efforts to revive European  Catholicism.  

As of 2012 only 24 percent of the world's Catholics reside in Europe. In comparison, the Latin American region of Pope Francis  boasts 41 percent of the church's adherents. 

The new Pope encouraged cardinals last week to find new ways to reach out in order to grow the Catholic Church.

The Catholic News Agency Wednesday quoted Francis as saying, " We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelize."

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