American Catholics

American Catholics

The Catholic Church in the United States is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Christian Church in full communion with the Pope. With more than 77.7 million registered members, it is the largest single religious denomination in the United States, comprising 25 percent of the population. The United States has the fourth largest Catholic population in the world, after Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines. It is also the largest Catholic minority population, and the largest English-speaking Catholic population.

Catholicism arrived in what is now the United States during the earliest days of the European colonization of the Americas. The first Catholic missionaries were Spanish, having come with Christopher Columbus to the New World on his second voyage in 1493. Subsequently, Spanish missionaries established missions in what are now Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, California, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. French colonization came later, in the early 18th century, with the French establishing missions in French Louisiana: St. Louis, New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, the Alabamas, Natchez, Yazoo, Natchitoches, Arkansas, Illinois, and Michigan.

The number of Catholics has grown during the country's history, at first slowly in the early 19th century through some immigration and through the acquisition of territories (formerly possessions of France, Spain, and Mexico) with predominately Catholic populations. In the mid-19th century, a rapid influx of immigrants from Europe (Irish, German, Polish and Italian) made Catholicism the largest religion in the United States. This increase of Catholics was met by widespread prejudice and hostility, often resulting in riots and the burning of churches. The nativist Know Nothing party was first founded in the early 19th century in an attempt to restrict Catholic immigration. This party believed that the United States was a Protestant nation and the influx of Catholics threatened its purity and mission, even its very existence.

Since the 1960s, the percentage of Americans who are Catholic has stayed roughly the same, at around 25%, due in large part to increases in the Hispanic population over the same period.

Read more about American CatholicsOrganization, Clergy, Lay Ministers and Employees, Demographics, Politics, American Catholic Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints, Top Eight Catholic Pilgrimage Destinations in The United States, Notable American Catholics

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... For living US bishops, see List of the Catholic bishops of the United States See also List of American Catholics ...

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