While the world's 1.2 billion Catholics wait to see who will emerge as the church's new leader in Rome, Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell told WTIC radio that regardless of the cardinals' decision, charity will remain a cornerstone of Catholicism, both abroad and here in Connecticut.
"There's no other organization as prepared and as able to serve as many people in poor and in need," Mansell said to WTIC on Tuesday morning, citing the Catholic Church as the largest non-governmental provider of medical and educational services in the state and in the world.
But, he emphasized that the future pope's relationship with God will be the determining factor in choosing a new leader. "Prayer is at the heart of it," he said on WTIC.
Mansell also commented on the abuse scandals that have plauged the church. He said that the church has taken an aggressive stance on determining what factors contributed to the prevalence of abuse, and that the new pope will have to continue to search for solutions.
"The Catholic church has done more studies than anybody else on why these things are happening," he said. "These were heinous acts, and they never should have affected the chuch."
Still, the Catholic population has seen a decline in recent years.
According to data from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the number of Catholic adherents has fallen from 2000 to 2010 in every Connecticut county. And a Trinity College study conducted in 2009 showed the number of Catholics in New England dropping from 50 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2008.
Trace the rise and fall in the state's Catholic population in the graph above, starting in 1952.