A Global Church


The Catholic Church is a global church.

And for the 1.2 billion adherents to the faith worldwide, it is a decisive moment. The faithful are looking to a new pope to bring a time of healing — and better governance — to a church tarnished by scandal and deeply divided.

Some would argue that the priest sex abuse scandals have cracked the moral and financial foundation of the church and weakened its structure to a point that lends itself to historical comparisons with the Protestant Reformation.

Throughout Europe and North America, the Catholic Church is seeing attendance slip, priests are aging and dying off as the church struggles to be relevant as a moral voice.

But many other Catholics are hopeful, knowing that the church is resilient and as important as ever particularly in caring for the world’s sick and poor. The church runs a vast global network of hospitals and schools and for many of the world’s most destitute it is priests and nuns who provide a lifeline of support.

Indeed the church is growing rapidly in the global south.

Over the last century, the distribution of Catholics has shifted from Europe to Africa and Latin America. In 1910, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, about 70 percent of all Catholics lived in Europe and North America. But now, the Pew data reveals, that the statistic has completely reversed. Today nearly 70 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

In this Special Report, we take a look at “A Global Church” and the challenges that lie ahead for a new pope.

This Special Report, produced by The GroundTruth Project, has appeared on GlobalPost.com since 2013.