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Photo: calnewman.org

Over the past century, the number of Catholics around the globe has more than tripled, from an estimated 291 million in 1910 to nearly 1.1 billion as of 2010, according to a comprehensive demographic study by the Pew Research Center. In the last decade, Latin America has become the area of the world with the most Catholics.

Here, two big countries lead the rankings with the highest number of baptized Catholics around the globe. Let's continue to see other Catholic countries in the world below:

1. Brazil

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Photo: churchmilitant.com

The first is Brazil, with 170 million Catholics - about 64 percent of the population.

Tradition claims the first Mass celebrated in Brazilian territory took place on Easter Sunday, 1500. However, the first diocese was established by the Portuguese in this land in 1551. During colonial times, Catholic missions opposed the Portuguese governmental policy of exploiting the native population, leading to the eventual suppression of the Jesuits in the 18th century. Once the country gained its independence in the 19th century, the already existing Iberian Catholic community received a large number of Italian, Polish, and German Catholic immigrants. Brazil is nowadays the country with the most Catholics, although they only represent only 61 percent of Brazil's total population.

2. Mexico

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Photo: Wikipedia

The second country on the list is Mexico. With 111 million Catholics – 77 percent of the population. It has been three years since the pope traveled there and met millions of people.

Catholicism was brought to Mexico by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in the early 16th century, with a priest arriving at the Peninsula of Yucatán in 1519 as a member of Hernán Cortés' expedition, in what is now known as Veracruz ("the True Cross"). A few years later, in 1524, twelve Franciscan friars also arrived in Mexico, being later known as "Los Doce" ("The twelve", in a clear reference to Christ's own twelve apostles). The Dominican order got to Mexican land in 1526, followed by the Augustinians in 1533.

3. Philippines

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Photo: getrealphilippines.com

Today, the Philippines contains the highest number of Catholics in Asia. The Philippines also has one of the highest percentages of Catholics in the world, totaling 81 percent of the country's population.

Catholicism came to the Philippine islands by way of Spanish missionaries and colonists, who arrived there in the early 16th century in Cebu. Today the island nation is one of the two nations in Asia having a substantial portion of the population professing the Catholic faith, aside from East Timor. According to recent polls, 81.4 percent of the country currently identifies as Catholic.

4. U.S.

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Photo: ministry.americanbible.org

The United States is the most populated country in the Americas – close to 300 million inhabitants – of whom 55 million are Catholic.

The United States saw the arrival of Catholicism with the Spanish in Florida and Georgia, as well as in California, the Franciscan saint Junípero Serra being one of the main protagonists of this process. The French also brought a Catholic presence to Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, and Michigan, although much later, in the 18th century, alongside German and English immigrants. The faith was then bolstered in the northeast by Italian and Irish immigrants of the 19th and 20th century, as well as by other Eastern European newcomers, just like Latino and Filipino communities do nowadays.

5. Italy

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Photo: cruxnow.com

Italy is fifth in the world ranking and it is also the European country with the most Catholics. It has about 50 million baptized Catholics – 80 percent of the country's population.

Christianity arrived in Italy in the very first century, most likely brought there by traders and soldiers in the Roman army, according to most historians. Saint Paul's letter to the Romans is witness to the presence of Roman Christians in the very early days of Christianity. These communities were also with Saint Peter and Saint Clement, the latter being the first Italian pope, who wrote a letter to the Christian community in Corinth in the year 96.

6. France

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Photo: americamagazine.org

A long-standing tradition claims Mary of Bethany, her sister Martha, and Lazarus, along with some companions who were facing persecution in the Holy Land crossed the Mediterranean, landing in southern France, near Arles. In fact, the Provençal tradition claims Lazarus himself was the first bishop of Marseille. But the first actual written records of Christians in France date from the 2nd century, when Saint Irenaeus detailed the deaths of ninety-year-old bishop Pothinus of Lugdunum (that is, Lyon) and other martyrs of the 177 persecution in Lyon. A few centuries later, in 496, Remigius baptized Clovis I, who has been considered to be the founder of France.

7. Colombia

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Photo: foreignpolicy.com

Catholicism arrived in Colombia in 1508, its first diocese being established in 1534. As in most former Spanish colonies in South America, the Catholic Church (Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian friars mainly in the early colonial era) not only created but was also in charge of most public institutions, including teaching facilities (schools, colleges, universities, libraries) health facilities (hospitals, nurseries, leper hospitals) and even jails. Nowadays, there are 52 dioceses and over 120 religious Catholic organizations in the country.

There are several core beliefs of Catholicism. First, Catholics believe that Jesus is the son of God. Catholics also believe that the Bible is the word of God. Catholics also use the Ten Commandments as a moral and ethical compass.

Catholics believe in Adam and Eve, and they believe that all humans are sinners because of Adam and Eve. Catholics believe that the practice of baptism removes this original sin and is necessary for salvation.

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