With some 1.2 billion followers around the globe, the Catholic Church represents the largest, most populous religion in the world.
The church runs over 200,000 schools, more than a quarter of the world’s healthcare facilities, and with increasing numbers of new devotees in Asia and Africa, it seems Catholicism is itself in rude health.
The Catholic Church is an empire both vital, and in crisis.
Empire travels to Rome, the spiritual home of the world’s oldest Christian denomination to reveal, on deeper examination, a more complex picture of a faith in flux and a church at a crossroads.
Whilst its following may be growing in new territories, the traditional Catholic heartlands of Europe and the Americas have seen significant reductions in numbers of church-goers.
The rise of secularism, the resurgence of Protestant and Evangelical churches and the self-inflicted scourge of sex-abuse scandals and charges of mismanagement, have damaged Catholicism’s credibility and diminished its membership.
As the Catholic Church faces new and old challenges - both internal and external - Empire asks: What can Pope Francis, the first from the global South, do to stem the bleed of devotees in the West? And will he seek to reform and modernise or will he maintain ‘business as usual’?
In the coming and going between the faithful and the faithless, we examine how the battle for hearts, minds and souls, is more than just a numbers game.
Joining us in Vatican City to discuss the present issues and future direction for the Roman Catholic Church are: Marco Tosatti, writer for La Stampa, and author of several books on religion, including John Paul II: Portrait of a Pontiff; Father Norman Tanner, a Jesuit Priest, and author of New Short History of the Catholic Church; and Marco Politi, a journalist and author of Joseph Ratzinger - Crisis of a Papacy.
This episode of Empire can be seen from Sunday, May 26, at the following times GMT: Sunday: 2000; Monday: 1200; Tuesday: 0100; Wednesday: 0600.
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