April 4, 2005


Global South as growing force in Catholic Church (Sophie Arie, 4/05/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

As part of a broader trend of surging Christianity in the developing world, the rising tide - and rising clout - of Southern Catholics has already brought profound change to their faith. Morally and theologically conservative, respectful of authority, poor but full of zeal, they are everything that European Catholics are not.

Now that John Paul II has died, some Catholics are asking: Shouldn't the next pope represent this class of Catholics, which makes up two thirds of the Vatican's 1.1 billion strong flock?

"The South is increasingly the center of energy of Christianity," says Vatican expert John Allen. "There is a strong current that would regard a pope from the developing world as the most suitable leader now."

Among the names of cardinals listed as likely successors, three or four are from the developing world. A pope from the South, analysts say, would probably uphold the church's teachings opposing abortion, contraception, married clerics, and same-sex unions.

"Christians are facing a shrinking population in the liberal West and a growing majority of the traditional rest," says Philip Jenkins, author of "The Next Christendom: The coming of global Christianity."

Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, are booming in the global South. The rise is so great, in fact, that Christendom's so-called center of gravity - the point on the globe where roughly the same number of believers live to the north, south, east, and west - is shifting ever further from Rome, not to mention Jerusalem, where Christianity started.

Today, according to a trajectory mapped by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, based in South Hamilton, Mass., the demographic heart of the Christian world has shifted to Timbuktu, in the mostly Muslim African nation of Mali.

It won't be there for long. As the numbers of African Christians multiplies, and as Europe's churches continue to empty, by 2100, the center of gravity will have pushed deeper south, to Sokoto, Nigeria. By then, experts estimate, there will be three times more Christians in the global South than in the North.

"It's a shock to see how fast this center of gravity is moving," says Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. "The growth of Christianity in Africa today is faster than it has been at any time in Christian history."

Yet the Democrats remain Atlanticists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2005 5:47 PM

What does one thing have to do with the other? I will admit that I am in favor of essentially scrapping Old Europe and focusing on Latin America, East Asia and South Asia, but my reasons are economic and scientific not out of any nonsense about shared cultural, let alone religious, heritage.

Posted by: bart at April 5, 2005 6:49 AM

Ah, scientific! Then you must be right.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2005 7:34 AM

The emerging competitors in R & D to the US are the nations of East Asia and South Asia. Don't you read the papers?

Posted by: bart at April 5, 2005 8:28 AM