Muslims outnumber Roman Catholics for first time

ISLAM has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said yesterday.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican’s newly released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2% of the world’s population and Catholics 17.4%.

“For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us,” Formenti told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in an interview, saying the data referred to 2006.

He said that if all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants, then Christians made up 33% of the world’s population — or about two billion people.

The Vatican recently put the number of Catholics in the world at 1.13 billion people. It did not provide a figure for Muslims, generally estimated at about 1.3 billion. Formenti said that while the number of Catholics as a proportion of the world’s population was fairly stable, the percentage of Muslims was growing because of higher birth rates.

Meanwhile, a German theatre brought Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses to the stage yesterday, with no sign of trouble after authorities promised security precautions.

The Hans-Otto Theatre in Potsdam said its version, which has 12 actors and ran for nearly four hours, is the first theatrical presentation of the novel.

Iran’s late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa — or religious edict — ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because The Satanic Verses allegedly insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade.

Theatre director Uwe Eric Laufenberg had invited the author to the premiere, but it had been unclear whether he would attend and Rushdie could not be seen in the audience.


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