Río de Janeiro (Agenzia Fides) – According to a report issued by the Getulio Vargas Foundation although in the 1990s Brazil saw a drastic decline in its Catholic population, the soul drain has stopped and the numbers have remained at a stable 73.79% registered in 2003.
The report was issued a week before the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI who will make a 4 day visit to the country from 9-13 May. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world although the Church has lost numerous members. In 2000 there were 125.53 million Catholics in 2003 the number had risen to 129.76 million and the Foundation says today Brazilian Catholics number around 139.24 million.
The report, Study on Religions: Recent Changes, is based on statistics supplied by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in 2003 compared with those which emerged from a recent population count. The report said the number of Catholics in Brazil between 1991 and 2000 dropped from 83,34% to 73,89%. In 1940, Catholics were 95.01% of the population and then diminished gradually: 93.48% in 1950, 93.07% in 1960, 91.77% in 1970, 88.96% in 1980 and 83.34% in 1991.