Argentinians losing their religion, survey shows

Cardinal Mario Poli distributes Communion during a Mass and pro-life rally outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan in Buenos Aires last Sunday, as survey shows there are now fewer Argentinian Catholics (CNS/Agustin Marcarian, Reuters)

The number of Catholics in Argentina is declining while the proportion of people without a religion is increasing, a recent survey shows. Source: America Magazine.

But analysts consider that the still-high percentage of people who believe in God - 82 per cent - is a sign that the Church has an opportunity to prevent further losses in the South American country.

The second study conducted by the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina concerning creeds and religious attitudes allowed the first comparison of historical data on such themes. Argentina’s official census ceased to include questions about it in 1960.

The survey found the accelerated reduction in the size of the Catholic flock in Argentina confirmed an overall Latin American trend: Between 2008 and 2019, the proportion of Catholics in Argentina dropped from 77 per cent to 63 per cent. In 2014, a survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 69 per cent of the Latin American public identified as Catholic; in the 1960s, at least 90 per cent of the continent professed Catholicism.

Juan Cruz Esquivel, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, was part of the team that conducted the study.

“The 1960 census showed that Catholics represented 90 per cent of the population in Argentina,” he said, noting the figure dropped by almost 14 percentage points by 2008, “a period of 48 years,” and experienced another 14 percentage-point drop by 2019, this time over a period of only 11 years.

The study has also found that the segment of the population without any religion increased from 11 per cent in 2008 to 19 per cent in 2019.

Fr Gustavo Morello SJ, a sociologist at Boston College, said the growth of the religiously unaffiliated connects to a broader crisis of loss of trust in traditional institutions in society, including political parties.

“Religion is not isolated,” he said. “Several [societal] institutions used to confer identity to people, but this is changing now.

“In Latin America as a whole, 90 per cent of the people believe in God, even though Catholicism is declining in several countries,” said Fr Morello. “So, it’s not so much about secularisation, but religious transformation.”


Argentina’s Catholic numbers in sharp decline, following Latin American trend (America Magazine)

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