The march of Christianity

The future of the world’s most popular religion is African

AROUND 140,000 people crowded into St Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis deliver Christmas mass today, Christmas day. Rome, and by extension Europe, has been the centre of Christianity ever since Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity some 300 years after, according to Christian tradition, Peter, the first pope, arrived there from the Holy Land to spread the gospel and was later crucified. Two millennia later, Christianity is the world’s most popular religion—there are 30% more self-identified Christians in the world than Muslims—and Europe is still the continent with the largest Christian population.

Nonetheless, European priests and ministers are preaching to ever-emptier pews. Just 10% of adults in France and Sweden go to church once a month or more. In Ireland, regular attendance fell from 90% in 1990 to 60% in 2009. Shrinking congregations have led the Church of England, one of Britain’s largest landowners, to close 1,900 churches since 1969, 11% of the total.

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