Study finds Orthodox growth lagging behind Catholics and Protestants

14 November 2017 | by Tom Heneghan

Russia registered the largest number of Orthodox believers, with about 101 million followers

The Orthodox Christian population is over twice as large around the world as it was a century ago but lags behind the expansion that Catholics and Protestants have made in the same period, a new study says.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center said that Orthodox, who now  number almost 260 million believers, account for 12 percent of world Christianity, compared to about 20 percent a century ago.

While Catholicism and Protestant denominations have expanded around the globe over the past 100 years, the Orthodox remain mostly European-based with 77 percent of them living there. Only 24 percent of Catholics and 12 percent of Protestants now live in Europe.

“Orthodoxy’s falling share of the global Christian population is connected with demographic trends in Europe, which has lower overall fertility rates and an older population than developing regions of the world,” the study said.

Russia registered the largest number of Orthodox believers, with about 101 million followers, but observance there is lowest with only six percent of adults saying they attend church weekly. Other areas of the former Soviet Union also report low levels of participation.

The largest Orthodox following outside of Europe is in Ethiopia, where observance is much higher and the ranks of the faithful have grown much faster than in Europe. It now claims 36 million members, making it the second-largest national church just ahead of Ukraine.

The survey showed often large majorities in favour of married priests, which are allowed in Orthodoxy, and lower but strong opposition to women priests. Romania registered the highest number of believers who would like full communion with the Catholic Church at 62 percent, while Russia came last with only 17 percent supporting it.

PICTURE: Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (C) of Moscow and All Russia speaks at a ceremony in Moscow ©PA 

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