The ancient land of Portugal is yielding in a slow but gratifying way to evangelical Protestant penetration. Much Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism remains hostile and intolerant of evangelical Christianity, some of the most “conservative” churchmen participating in Vatican Council II coming from this European peninsula. Yet believers are daring nonetheless to pray daily that Portugal may be stirred by divine blessing upon the courageous witness of united evangelical forces.
The Portuguese are in fact adrift from their traditional Romanist moorings. Some Dutch Catholics are said to consider Portugal a mission field. In a land the size of Indiana, with almost ten million inhabitants, some 70 to 90 per cent of the people are not attending Catholic churches, the figure varying with the provinces. Of Catholic candidates for the priesthood, proportionately fewer arrive at the goal from seminaries in Portugal than in any other country in Europe. Some 40 per cent of the population remains illiterate. In some sections there is but one priest to every 12,000 inhabitants. In this land of the legends of Fatima, religious life is crassly superstitious, and for many Portuguese Catholics the doctrine of Mary’s assumption into heaven has become more significant than the ascension of Jesus. When the Baptist Convention of Portugal during an evangelistic effort in Porto paid for billboards proclaiming Christ the hope of the world, Catholic zealots superimposed the words “Christ and the Virgin.”
Despite the deterioration of their own religious position, some Catholic leaders repeatedly exert subtle political pressures to repress Protestant evangelistic efforts. A Keswick convention of sorts was held annually at Carrascal until Catholic pressures ...1
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