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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Brazilians embrace Protestant faiths
Giant Jesus statue in Rio
The Catholic Church says it is not concerned
Protestant faiths have been making inroads into Brazil - the world's most populous Catholic country, census figures show.

The number of people who declared themselves Catholic in the 2000 census was down 10% from 1991, to 73.8% of Brazil's 170 million people, the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics said.

Indians at mass in Brazil
The Catholic Church has apologised to Brazil's Indians for past wrongs
The number of people who said they were members of Protestant religions grew to 15.4%, up from 9% in 1991.

Evangelical Protestant churches, such as the Assembly of God and Universal Kingdom of God, have been very successful at appealing to Brazil's poor.

They have a message of strict adherence to the New Testament and prohibitions on drinking.

Those who said they had no religion also rose to 7.3%, up from 4.8%.

Catholic Church 'not worried'

Figures show that Protestant faiths have made their greatest advances in Amazon states such as Rondonia, Roraima, Amazonas and Acre.

In Acre, nearly a quarter of the population said they belonged to Protestant denominations.

The institute said that Brazil's poor north-east still had the greatest concentration of Catholics.

Rio de Janeiro was the state with the smallest proportion of Catholics - 57.2% - and the highest proportion of non-believers, with 15.5%.

Roman Catholic Church officials told Reuters news agency they did not consider the numbers alarming.

They said that the advance of Evangelical denominations dated back to the start of the 1990s and the figures had since stabilised.

There were no statistics to show the popularity of other religions.

See also:

03 Sep 00 | Americas
Brazilian church to float shares
29 Aug 99 | Americas
Brazil buries 'red bishop'
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