Filipino Catholic population expanding, say Church officials

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Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Who said that the number of Filipino Catholics has been dwindling?

The Catholic Directory of the Philippines has said six million more Catholics in the country have been counted so far in 2013, an eight-percent leap from figures culled in 2012.

From 2010 to 2011, the Church counted 70,407,588 Filipino Catholics out of the country’s estimated population of 88.9 million. There were also around 1.21 million Filipinos that were baptized into the Catholic Church, records showed.

This year, the number of Filipino Catholics reached 76.18 million out of the country’s estimated population of 96.8 million. The Catholic Directory also recorded 1.37 million baptisms since 2012.

Data showed the Archdiocese of Cebu had the most number of baptisms so far this year, with 90,036. The Archdiocese of Manila came in second, with 62,854 baptisms, followed by the Diocese of Masbate, with 55,770.

“More people are getting baptized now. Is this a sign of the growth of the Church? Not necessarily. It can be because the population is growing,” said Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz in an interview with reporters.

Cruz said that the figures reflected in the Catholic Directory were culled from parishes across the country.

“Every year, all parishes give a statistical report to the bishop of the diocese, who then adds up all the baptisms, marriages, confirmations, ordinations, among others,” he said, adding that the data is processed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines before a final report is submitted to Rome.

Another survey conducted in February showed that one in every 11 Filipino Catholics, or 9.2 percent, sometimes considered leaving the Church. The study also showed that Filipino Catholics were less devout and active in attending church services.

Cruz admitted that the Catholic Church didn’t monitor how many of its flock left the fold for other religious denominations. “We only monitor those that come in [but] to me, the increase in baptisms is a very good sign,” he said.

“It still means that the Church is very much alive here,” said Cruz.

In his opinion column, “Public Lives,” sociologist Randy David in April highlighted three findings of a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in February: “First, that weekly church attendance has significantly gone down from a high of 64 percent in July 1991 to a low of 37 percent in February 2013.  Second, that only 29 percent of Filipino Catholics consider themselves “very religious,” compared to 50 percent of Protestants, 43 percent of Iglesia ni Cristo members, and 38 percent of Muslims. And finally, that 9.2 percent (one out of 11) “sometimes think of leaving the Church.”

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