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An interesting fact from Karl Keating's E-Letter.

According to "L'Osservatore Romano," from 1978 to 2004 the world's Catholic population increased by 342 million, going from 756 million to 1.098 billion.

The largest percentage increase was in Africa: up 172 percent. Next came Asia with an 80 percent increase. Then came Oceania (53 percent) and the Americas (50 percent, with North and South being counted together by the paper). In last place was Europe with an increase of less than 5 percent.

There is a small, dark cloud behind this silver lining. The Catholic share of the world's population has fallen slightly, from 17.99 percent to 17.19 percent.

This suggests that Catholics have not been very successful in reaching out to the five-sixths of the world that is not Catholic. Yes, there have been lots of conversions, but they have been offset by natural population increases in the non-Catholic world. In a way, we're just treading water.

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