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Catholics and Protestants see themselves as more similar than different – except in the UK

Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in 1517 (Wikimedia Commons)

Catholics and Protestants are more likely to see their respective communions as more similar than different, according to research.

The findings, from the Pew Research Centre, a think tank based in Washington DC, show a marked change in perceptions since Martin Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses 500 years ago.

Sixty-five per cent of US Catholics and 57 per cent of Protestants saw their corresponding communions as more similar than different. A median of 50 per cent of European Catholics and 58 per cent of European Protestants held the same outlook.

The Western European survey questioned nearly 24,000 adults across 15 countries, revealing considerable regional differences. The United Kingdom was the only country where Catholics thought their religion was more different to Protestantism than similar (41 per cent thought it was more similar, 45 per cent thought it was more different).

Catholics are more likely to outnumber Protestants in southern European countries such as Spain and France, while Protestants outnumber Catholics in the north – the UK, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

But in every European country surveyed, roughly nine-in-ten Catholics and Protestants say they are willing to accept members of the other tradition as neighbours. Ninety-eight per cent of German Protestants say they would accept Catholics as members of their family, and a similar share of German Catholics (97 per cent) say the same about Protestants.

The study’s survey of US believers found that in a series of multiple-choice questions, 65 per cent correctly identified the Reformation as the term commonly used to refer to the historical period in which Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church.

The study, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, surveyed 24,599 adults across 15 countries in Western Europe, and 5,198 adults in the US.