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Mexican bishops respond to data showing increasingly fewer Catholics in their country

Faithful pray at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 2, 2023 / 11:34 am (CNA).

One of the challenges facing the bishops of the Catholic Church in Mexico is the decrease in the number of faithful in the country where Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of America, appeared.

According to data from the 2020 Population and Housing Census cited by the Mexican bishops, Catholics in the country constitute 77.7% of the population, or about 98 million people.

In 1950, Catholics constituted 98.2% of the population; by 1980 the number dropped to 92.6%. In 1990 it continued to decrease down to 89.7%, and in the year 2000 Catholics made up 87.9% of the population.

In 2010, the percentage fell to 82.7% and in 2020 it was down to 77.7%.

Based on the figures for 1950, as of the last census in 2020, the number of Catholics in Mexico has decreased by 20.5%.

To serve these faithful, the Church in Mexico has 19 ecclesiastical provinces consisting of 19 archdioceses and 79 dioceses.

The number of Protestants on the other hand has increased in Mexico over the same time period. In 1950 they made up 1.3% of the population; in 1960 they amounted to 1.7%; in 1970 to 1.8%; in 1980 to 3.2%; in 2000 they reached 7.3%; and in 2020 they were already 11.2% of the Mexican population.

On Feb. 2, the Mexican bishops published the “‘Synodal Synthesis’ for a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” for consideration in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the Synod on Synodality, which will have the same theme.

That synod will take place in October 2023 and 2024 in Rome and has a diocesan, continental, and universal stage. The first stage has been completed, the second is underway, and the third will take place at the Vatican.

In their Feb. 2 synthesis, the bishops acknowledge that “men and women religious as well as the lay movements had little participation” in the diocesan phase in which the majority attending were women (at 55%) and the age range was between 35 and 65 years, whereas the national average is 29.

“The laity who mostly participate in the pastoral tasks of the Church are adults (we recognize that there are very few young people), and the consultation rested mostly on them, but the dioceses that implemented electronic means and the use of social media for the consultation obtained a greater participation of young people,” explained Bishop Ramón Castro Castro, the secretary general of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“The strategies to attract young people to the Church are being permanently implemented on an ongoing basis: There are leaders, teams; there are programs and great participation by parishioners contributing to this objective,” continued Castro, the bishop of Cuernavaca.

However, the prelate pointed out, “the dynamics of young people’s lives today face great challenges (family, school, economic, emotional, etc.) [and they] cannot always respond as we would like.”

“Definitely, yes it’s a difficult goal to achieve to draw young people to the Church. But we are neither panicking nor anguishing over it because we are working on it and some of the efforts that are being made are bearing fruit,” the Mexican bishop said.

On how to approach Catholics who have distanced themselves from the Church, Castro explained to ACI Prensa that it’s necessary to take into account that many of them “were laymen with criticisms who were not listened to at the time and, tired of being met with deaf ears, they left.”

“These brothers are mistakenly perceived as attacking the Church or even as enemies, without considering that their intentions were and continue to be good, and that their contributions can be very valuable to refresh the mind, vision, and methods of pastoral care today,” he said.

In April 2021, in his message to the 110th Plenary Assembly of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, the then apostolic nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, noted that “the decrease in the Catholic population in this Guadalupan land is extremely worrisome.”

“We are now seeing more clearly how much — in recent decades — faith formation had not succeeded and has not succeeded, as perhaps we thought or as we would have wanted, to deeply penetrate the baptized,” he lamented.

“The effects of this notable decrease are not yet seen in the number of members of our presbyteries, because — thank God — our life expectancy has increased a lot in these years. But the median age of our [priests] goes up and up,” he said.

Coppola also pointed out that “all these data are a wake-up call for all of us.”

“When we are before him, the Lord of the harvest will ask us for an account of the talents, many, that he has entrusted to us: a Catholic people, faithful and devoted to holy Mary Guadalupe,” the apostolic nuncio to Mexico stressed.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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  1. Mexico faces the same challenges the rest of the Western Hemisphere does including secularization & plummeting birthrates. That said, there are still a great many faithful souls in Mexico. On Ash Wednesday Mexico City churches were distributing ashes from 8am until 10 pm. The Basilica of OLOG holds Masses every hour weekdays & it was absolutely packed last Friday. The basilica’s gift shops had huge crowds of shoppers, the grottoes to place votive candles in were almost too full to find a space for my candle. 12.5 million pilgrims visited the shrine for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day in 2022.
    So there’s great hope for the future but face to face evangelization outreaches are really crucial. And that’s the case in the States & elsewhere too. You have to encounter people where they are & have authentic relationships, not just virtual ones.

  2. Protestantisms, in particular the myriad of well funded «evangelical» cult-like brands facilitate westernization, secularization and americanization. The theme Catholicism keeps you poor whereas our hotline to God, check the donation box, is the road to material wealth and happiness.
    There is also heavy «rightist» political message too.

  3. Archbishop Coppola senses the mysterious dynamic of Mexicans turning away from the deep faith that began with the appearance of Our lady of Guadalupe. Mysterious because the turning away is replaced by return to the satanic Aztec past seen in the similarities of idolatrous worship, killing rituals of the cartels. They take oaths to the madonna of death.
    Cartels are much more than the ordinary garden variety crime org. It’s a new religion of the occult. Partly responsible are those social anthropologists, Protestant historians who glorified the Aztec, Mayan cultures, and vilified the Spanish Catholic.
    The other is a pervasive spirit of evil that is shrouding this planet, the home of Man created in God’s image. Every nation is subject to heinous religious sexual cultic behavior. A clear sign of the daemonic is the incredibly fast spread of sexual exploitation of children, much of it ending in ritualistic death of the child. Abortion and trans sex are the moral infections responsible for these even more heinous mutations.
    Catholics are drawn into this catastrophic demise of our humanness, churchmen becoming catalysts, enlightened, perceiving new moral paradigms, mercy synonymous with license. Our Church totters more seem on the wide open road into darkness. Bishops and cardinals espousing the unthinkable. What will save of us Lord? Heal me Lord and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise (Jeremiah 17:14).

    • Some years back it was reported that a young boy was sacrificed in Sonora in a ritual by people following the cult of Santa Muerte. At least according to the newspaper, I read.

      You know the thing about drug smuggling & trafficking is that no operation like that can be successful unless both the delivering & receiving end benefit. Our hands aren’t clean either.

    • Yes you echo my thoughts Father. Tonight I read about some American chocolate bar featuring a trans for International Womans Day and I honestly felt my head and heart drop. Someone though posted a quote from Cardinal Mindszenky and I felt a ray of hope like I often do from reading your comments. God Bless you. I fear we are in for a very rough ride.

  4. Pope Francis is the most disturbing reason for the greatest decline in Catholic belief in the history of the Christian Church. Through inference and insinuation, and by his emphasis on error and his de-emphasis of Truth, Pope Francis has deliberately sown confusion and doubt. If Pope Francis doesn’t believe in the Catholic Faith, then why should anyone else ???

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