Washington, D.C., November 10, 2017
While the total Orthodox Christian population throughout the world has more than doubled over the past century, now standing at 260 million, with more than 100 million in Russia alone, it has decreased as a share of the overall Christian and global populations, due to far faster growth among Protestants and Catholics, and the non-Christian. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, just 12% of worldwide Christians are Orthodox, compared to approximately 20% a century ago. 4% of the total population is Orthodox, compared with an estimated 7% in 1910.
Note that the Pew numbers do not distinguish between Eastern Orthodoxy and the non-Chalcedonian Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Orthodox Christians remain largely concentrated in Eastern Europe, where 77% live, while only 24% of Catholics and 12% of Protestants currently live in Europe. Orthodoxy’s falling share of the global Christian population is largely connected with Europe’s low fertility rates and an older population as compared to developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia.
Orthodox Christians in the former Soviet Union generally have the lowest levels of observance among Orthodox Christians, with, for example, just 6% of Orthodox adults in Russia attending church weekly and 18% praying daily. Orthodox former Soviet Union nations show similar numbers.
In comparison, 78% of members of the Ethiopian Oriental Orthodox community report weekly church attendance, and 65% report praying daily.
Orthodox Christians in Europe outside the former Soviet Union have slightly higher levels of religious observance. For example, 46% of Orthodox Christians in Bosnia say religion is very important in their lives, 10% attend church weekly, and 28% pray daily.
Meanwhile, 52% of Orthodox adults in the United States say religion is very important to them, 31% report that they attend church weekly or more, and 57% say they pray daily.
Across fourteen European countries with large Orthodox populations, an average of 90% say they have icons at home.
The study, which can be found in full at pewforum.org, also tracks Orthodox Christians’ opinions on issues such as the married priesthood, female ordination, gay marriage, and reconciliation with the Roman Catholic communities, among other issues. The data in this new Pew Research report come from a variety of surveys and other sources.