Anyone looking at that list could conclude that in terms of turnout, if not census rolls, Catholicism today is largely an African enterprise. Given trends in both population growth and also Mass attendance, this African domination will only increase as the century wears on.
There are at least a couple of immediate conclusions to be drawn.
First, pay careful attention to Pope Francis’s six-day trip to Congo and South Sudan, which opens today and which marks his third voyage to sub-Saharan Africa. Listen not just to what the pope says to the Africans, but what the Africans say to him.
This trip is not just an Africa story. It’s a Catholic story, because no matter where you live, if you belong to the Catholic Church, Africans increasingly will be setting the tone based on the simple fact that they’re the ones who show up.
Second, it will be interesting going forward to gauge to what extent the ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality reflects what African voices are saying. Pope Francis recently criticized the “synodal path” in Germany for being an exercise “made by the elites.” By the same token, it will be important that his own synod not be open to the criticism of being something “made by the west.”