Islam overtakes Catholic population in numbers

religion | Mar 30, 2008 | By Martin Barillas

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, the compiler of the 2008 Pontifical Yearbook and director of the Vatican statistical service, said that the number of Muslims has overtaken that of Catholics worldwide.

According to an interview in the Italian-language version Osservatore Romano newspaper this weekend, Monsignor Formenti said “"For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us," and said that Muslims now make up 19.2 percent of the population of the world as opposed to Catholicism’s 17.4 percent.

Even so, Monsignor Formenti said that if all Christendom is considered: Orthodox, Anglicans and other Christians – that Christians make up 33 percent of the world population or 2 billion people. The entire human population of the world now surpasses 6.6 billion.

The priest noted upon the release of the 2006 yearbook, known as the Annuario Pontificio, that Catholics’ growth rate was slower than that of the overall population. At that time there were 1,098 billion Catholics in the world, including those of the Byzantine, Chaldean, Roman, and Syro-Malakan rites and others. The number of priests and candidates for the priesthood showed modest up-ticks in recent years.


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.