POPULATION199,321,413 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$11,900 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSRoman Catholic (nominal) 73.6%, Protestant 15.4%, Spiritualist 1.3%, Bantu/voodoo 0.3%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.2%, none 7.4% (2000 census)
ALSO IN LATIN AMERICAArgentina
AT THE CENTER
Brazil possesses both a strictly secular government and a richly spiritual society formed from the meeting of the Roman Catholic Church with the religious traditions of African slaves and indigenous peoples. This confluence of faiths during the Portuguese colonization of Brazil (1500-1815) led to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices within the overarching umbrella of Brazilian Roman Catholicism. Catholicism was the only recognized religion during colonial rule, and in 1824 it became the official religion of an independent Empire of Brazil that also guaranteed religious freedom. The shift to a republic in 1889 led to the adoption of a strictly secular constitution two years later, but the Catholic Church remained politically influential into the late 20th century. Religious pluralism has increased dramatically since the 1970s, largely due to a Protestant community that has grown to include over 15% of the population. The Constitution of Brazil guarantees freedom of religion and prohibits government support or hindrance of religion at all levels.