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Brazil has lowest priest-to-laity ratio May 07, 2007

Brazil has the lowest proportion of priests to laity among all the world's Catholic nations, according to the Center for Religious Statistics and Social Testing in Rio de Janeiro.

The Center found that in 2006, there were 18,685 Catholic priests in Brazil, serving a population of 140 million lay faithful. Thus the ratio of priests to lay Catholics was about 1 to 7,500.

In Italy, by contrast, there is a priest for about every 1,000 lay Catholics. In order to reach that proportion, Brazil would need 140,000 priests.

In other Latin American countries, the proportion is higher than in Europe, but not as high as Brazil's. In Argentina, for example, there is one priest to 6,800 faithful; in Columbia, one priest to 5,600. In Mexico, the 2nd largest Catholic country in the world, the number is closer to that of Brazil.

Brazil, with the world's largest Catholic population, saw a dramatic increase in the activity of Protestant sects in the 1990s, leading to a significant drop in the proportion of Catholics among the country's people. During that decade the Catholic percentage of the country's overall population dropped from 83% to under 74%. That trend has slowed in recent years, however, and the Catholic population remains at about 74% of the total.