Protestants on the rise as Pope Benedict visits Mexico

By Reuters Staff
March 22, 2012

(Worshippers attend a prayer in an evangelical church in Leon March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido )

Worshippers jumping about in church, waving their hands to the swell of keyboards and electric guitars is not a sight any pope would hope to find in Mexico, for long one of the world’s most devout Roman Catholic countries.

But when Pope Benedict visits the city of Leon in Mexico’s Catholic heartland this weekend, the growing strength of Protestant groups will be on view just hundreds of meters from where he will meet with bishops and the Catholic faithful.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics arrives in Mexico to find a Church struggling to keep its flock.

Over the last decade, the number of Catholics leaving the fold has posted its biggest surge in modern Mexican history as more and more put their faith in evangelical Protestantism or the book of Mormon, or turn away from religion altogether.

At one evangelical service in Leon this month, worshippers yelled out to banish their demons in a style reminiscent of the U.S. Bible Belt. Hymns were backed by rock guitars, the faithful leaped up and down and an elderly woman added to the music by blowing through an enormous curved animal horn.

Some say they are attracted to the evangelical services because they are more exciting than solemn Catholic masses.

Others say they have been turned off Catholicism by child abuse scandals, which have hit several dioceses in Mexico in recent years.

Read the full story by Ioan Grillo here.
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