During Pope Francis’s tour of Mexico this week, he visited the southern state of Chiapas in an attempt to bolster sliding Catholic numbers in the indigenous region.
Of the 90 percent of Mexican adults who were raised as Catholic, 81 percent are still Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center. In Chiapas, just 58 percent are Catholic, according to the 2010 census.
All across Latin America, Catholics are losing converts to Protestants, according to Pew’s tally of record low levels of Catholicism across 19 countries and territories. At the same time, the region’s Protestant minority has grown steadily for the past 40 years.
Chiapas borders Guatemala, where half the population is Catholic and 41 percent are Protestant, according to Pew. Numbers are similar in nearby Honduras (46% Catholic, 41% Protestant) and El Salvador (50% Catholic, 36% Protestant). (The Chiapas-Guatemala border is the frontline of a battle to prevent the illegal immigration of Central Americans to the United States.)
The Roman Catholicism practiced in southern Mexico is combined with indigenous religions. The resulting practice made the Catholic hierarchy so uncomfortable that in 2002, the Vatican under Pope John Paul II asked the diocese in Chiapas to stop ordaining deacons.
Francis, who restarted the ordinations in 2014, took a strong stand for the indigenous Catholics this week.
“Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!” he told them, denouncing the “systemic and organized way your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society.”
He didn’t address the persecution that indigenous Catholics have leveled against Protestants in Chiapas.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra