14 AUGUST 2004, Page 26

Waxing Christianity

From Dr William Oddie Sir: 'Of course,' says William J. Abbot (Letters, 31 July), `Belloc had no way of knowing that by the 21st century Christianity would be well on the way to becoming a dead religion, thereby creating the vacuum into which Islam's revival is flowing.' Not so: Christianity is actually growing fast. In 1978 (the year of the present Pope's election), there were 757 million Catholics worldwide; by 2002, this had grown to 1,07 billion. The rate of growth varies considerably from continent to continent: in Africa, baptisms were up by 151 per cent, but even in Europe they were up by 5 per cent. Other Christian denominations are also growing. At present there are about 2 billion Christians, and 1.2 billion Muslims. There is no vacuum.

William Oddie