The Christian population has grown and declined over the years. But no matter how long it’s been, it remains to be the largest religion in the world with Catholicism making up more than half of it. So in this article, let’s focus on how many Catholics there are, particularly in the United States.
There are 61.9 million Catholics in the U.S. or about 18.7% of the population, according to the 2020 U.S. Religion Census. Compared to the last data, this shows a 2 million growth in the Church and that U.S. Catholics only account for 4.6% of the total population of Catholics in the world.
If Catholics are only 18.7%, then what religion makes up for the majority of the population in the U.S.? Likewise, if the United States is only 4.6% of the Catholics in the world, then what country has the highest Catholic population? Let’s answer all these questions in more detail below.
What Percentage of the US is Catholic?
According to the 2020 U.S. Religion Census, there are 61.9 million Catholics in the United States. With 331.4 million Americans in 2020, this is about 18.7% of the population.
The study was conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) and is done every 10 years. It is the most comprehensive study that documents the religious life in all states of the country, identifying 356,739 congregations, 372 religious bodies, and 161,371,931 adherents or individuals who are connected to the Catholic Church in some way. Through this study, it was determined that 48.7% of the country belongs to a religious congregation.
Now, compared to the last census – which was 10 years ago – the Catholic population in the U.S. grew by about 2 million people. Much of this growth comes from the South, which is the region with the most Catholics. Five decades ago, the Northeast and Midwest regions had the most number of Catholics in the country. In 2020, this declined to only 45%.
With more than 61.8 million members and 19,405 congregations in 2,961 counties, the Catholic Church is three times bigger than the next closest group, which is non-denominational Christian Churches with 21,095,641 members and 44,319 congregations. That said, the average number of Catholic members for every congregation is 3,000 while there are no other religious groups with more than 2,000 members per congregation.
What is the Majority Religion in the United States?
Catholicism is 18.7% of the population in the United States. Does this mean it’s the majority religion in the country? Well, no. According to the ASARB 2020 study, Protestants collectively outnumber Catholics in the United States.
I say “collectively” because Protestantism is a group comprised of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, non-denominational Christians, and members of other denominational families. So when not viewed collectively and if each Protestant body is seen as its own denominational group, the Catholic Church remains the single-largest religious body in the United States.
That said, going back to the 2020 U.S. Religion Census, there are 65,164,045 Protestants in the country. This is 19.7% of the U.S. population, which is slightly more than the Catholic population. The same is true in a more recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, which found that 40% of U.S. adults are Protestants while 21% identify as Catholics.
What Country Has the Highest Catholic Population?
According to Vatican News, which is the news portal of the Holy See, the number of Catholics in the world grew to 1.36 billion in 2020. This shows a 16 million increase from 2019, which is approximately 1.2%. Considering the growth in the world’s population from 2019 to 2020, the Catholic population steadily accounts for 17.7% of the total worldwide population.
The increase is more significant in Asia, particularly in the Southeast area with 1.8%, and in Africa with 2.1%. However, the biggest number of Catholics live in the Americas, accounting for almost half (48%) of the population of Catholics globally. Of these, almost 28% are in South America.
These figures came from the 2022 edition of the Pontifical Yearbook and the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which are compiled by the Central Office of Church Statistics of the Vatican. Now, from the Vatican’s latest statistics, which they released in the newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano”, Brazil was mentioned as the country with the highest number of Catholics in the world with 180 million members. It is the biggest country in South America with an estimated 218.7 million people in 2023.
What 3 Countries Have the Highest Catholic Population?
The Vatican identified Brazil as the country with the highest Catholic population. So what are the other two countries? Well, it’s Mexico and the Philippines respectively. Let’s have a quick look at these 3 countries and their Catholic populations below.
Vatican figures estimate that there are 180 million faithful in Brazil, which makes it the country with the most number of Catholics in the world. According to the Harvard Divinity School, “the Catholic Church is deeply enmeshed in Brazil’s culture, beliefs, and institutions”, arriving in the country with the Portuguese conquest in the 16th century and “has since been the dominant religion” in the country. At one point it has even been the official religion of the state.
Roman Catholicism is the majority religion in Mexico. In the 2020 Population and Housing Census, bishops in the country cited that there are about 98 million Catholics in Mexico, making up 77.7% of the population. This isn’t far from a 2020 survey conducted by Statista, which identified 72% of Mexican respondents claiming to be of Catholic faith.
In a 2020 census, 85 million Filipinos identified themselves as Roman Catholics, representing 78.8% of the total population in the country. Just like in Brazil, Catholicism was brought to the Philippines during the Spanish Colonization in the 16th century and has become the dominant religion since. Today, it’s closely associated with Filipino identity with the Church playing a big role in the country’s political and social landscape.