A Possible Reason why an Argentine Cardinal is now Pope1
No one other than those present during the recent conclave in Rome know all the reasons why an Argentine Cardinal is now Pope Francis. But I read one interesting theory in a fascinating article by Jamie Dean in World magazine (April 6, 2013).
Some theorize that the selection of this particular man may be “an attempt to stop the decline in the number of Catholics” throughout Latin America. I’m sure that Pope Francis has numerous qualities that contributed to his selection. But one cannot dismiss the reality that Latin America has experienced a dramatic rise in the number of evangelical Protestants during the last thirty or so years.
According to Dean, “in 1900, the region was almost entirely Catholic. Evangelicals comprised about 1 percent of the population. By 2010, that number had jumped to as much as 17 percent. In Brazil, the number is even higher: In a decade, evangelicals grew from 15.4 percent of the population to more than 22 percent – about 42 million people.”
One reason for this remarkable growth pattern is the explosion in the number of Pentecostals, “the [now] predominant group among evangelicals in Latin America.”
On the other hand, “Operation World attributes much of the evangelical growth to ‘the steady, faithful proclamation and witness of tens of thousands of laymen and pastors planting small churches out of a passion for the gospel.’ Another encouraging trend: Latin American nations are sending a steady number of missionaries to other nations around the world.”
These growth patterns have not gone unnoticed by leaders in Rome; thus the speculation that the selection of Pope Francis may, at least in part, have been a strategic move designed to exert a greater influence in a region once dominated by Catholicism.