Statistically speaking: Vatican numbers hint at fading faith practice
Published: August 17, 2012
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The percentage of Catholics practicing their faith is declining almost everywhere around the globe. Almost all bishops report it, but it's difficult to prove statistically. Each year, the Vatican's own statisticians compile mountains of data about the number of Catholics, baptisms, priests and religious, weddings and annulments in each diocese and country. The numbers illustrate trends over time, but many factors lead to the variations, said Enrico Nenna, the chief statistician in the Vatican's Central Office for Church Statistics. "It's very difficult to quantify Catholic practice, although many have tried with many different formulas," he said. "The only way to get an accurate picture of religious practice would be to carefully choose a cross section of the population, do a census, and then conduct interviews repeated over time." He said in his parish "over the last five years there has been an amazing increased heterogeneity" with young and old, married and single, Italian and immigrant worshippers. However, one cannot say his parish is the average Rome parish any more than the parish in the historic center of the city where, he said, "the 5 p.m. Mass is known as the 'widows' Mass.' In that neighborhood, the population is elderly, and women live longer than men." The number of baptisms and Catholic weddings reported around the world also are influenced by too many factors to be unquestionable indications of Catholic practice, Nenna said.
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