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Despite Popular Pope, a Drop in Latin American Catholics

Image:
Pope Francis holds up an Olympic T-shirt with his name on it given to him in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, July 25, 2013. Despite the Pope's popularity in Latin America, a new Latinobarometro poll released on April 16, 2014 finds the number of Roman Catholic Latin Americans has dropped from 80 percent in 1995 to 67 percent in 2013. Luca Zennaro / AP

Despite his strong popularity, Pope Francis has not been able to stem the tide of fellow Latin Americans turning away from Catholicism, according to a survey released Wednesday by Chile-based pollster Latinobarómetro .

The number of Roman Catholics in Latin America, a historical stronghold, dropped to 67 percent in 2013, from 80 percent in 1995. The survey found a rise in Evangelicalism and secularism.

A perception that the Catholic Church is out of touch with today's concerns and the Church's sex-abuse scandals has opened the door to a rise in Evangelicalism, especially among the region's poor and in Central America.

In Brazil, roughly 1 in 5 self-identified as Evangelical Christians.

Still, it appears that Pope Francis, a former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is shoring up confidence in his flock. Around 78 percent of Catholic Latin Americans said they trusted the Church last year, up from 69 percent in 2011, although the jump in confidence for Evangelical Christians was even higher.

In Chile and Uruguay, widely seen as the region's most stable and wealthy countries, secularism is gaining ground.

The poll's authors said it was too early to gauge the full impact of Pope Francis, who was elected last March.

--Reporting from Reuters

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