WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The percentage of Catholics around the world has remained stable over the past century, but the geographic distribution has shifted, a study has found.
Europe was home to about 65 percent of the world's population of Catholics in 1910, but that number had fallen to 24 percent by 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported this week.
Now, the largest share of Catholics, 39 percent, live in Latin America and the Caribbean, said the research center, which used data compiled by the World Christian Database.
Catholicism has grown rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, Pew found.
While Africans accounted for less than 1 percent of Catholics in 1910, a century later the continent's 171 million Catholics represent 16 percent of the faithful. In the same 100 years, the ratio of Catholics in the Asia-Pacific region has increased from 5 percent to 12 percent.
The share of Catholics in North America has increased less dramatically, from about 15 million, or 5 percent, in 1910 to 89 million, or 8 percent, in 2010, the center said.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the birthplace of Christianity, the percentage of Catholics has remained unchanged -- less than 1 percent.
Globally, the number of Catholics has remained relatively the same over the past century. Some 100 years ago, Catholics represented 48 percent of all Christians and 17 percent of the world's population, compared to 50 percent of Christians and 16 percent of the population now.