The Pew Research Center has documented the growth of Protestantism in Brazil.

Brazil’s total population more than doubled over the last four decades, increasing from approximately 95 million to more than 190 million. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of Catholics in the country rose even though the share of the population that identifies as Catholic was falling. But from 2000 to 2010, both the absolute number and the percentage of Catholics declined; Brazil’s Catholic population fell slightly from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million a decade later, dropping from 74% to 65% of the country’s total population.

Women shifted to Protestantism, men to unaffiliated status.

Der Spiegel has an article about Silas Malafaia, a successful pastor, “Gottes Entertainer.”

Franciscan he isn’t. He wears expensive suits, a Rolex, and travels by private jet.

The Protestants tend to be very conservative on political issues:

The evangelical churches also involve themselves in politics. They brought up to two million people in past years in Sao Paolo alone in demonstrations against abortion – more than the mass protests that have made headlines in past weeks.

The evangelical churches also believe that homosexuality can be healed and want a government project to provide such healing.

Why are they successful and why are Catholics converting to them? This Der Spiegel’s take:

Brazil’s cities have grown enormously in the past decades. Many immigrants to the metropolis are uprooted, families torn apart, alcohol and drug addiction widespread. People seek help in the evangelical churches. “The Catholic church is content to wait for the afterlife, that is less attractive,” says the professor of sociology Christina Vital: “By contrast the evangelical churches offer practical help for this life.”

The pastors are above all active in prisons and poor neighborhoods, many former drug dealers let themselves be baptized. In Jardim Primavera, a poor suburb of Rio, Malafaia supports a project for alcoholics, the demented, and drug addicts; his organization offers courses in literacy and help in looking for work.

This is the situation that Pope Francis faces in Brazil and in many Latin American countries. Liberation theologians wanted to identify with and help the poor – but the evangelicals are doing it in person, on the ground.

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