From the beginning of Christianity as the leading religion in Western countries, Rome was at the helm of the international church. Indeed, in historical times, there existed just one Christian church. As new churches broke away, the main Roman church came to be known as Catholics. They preserved their governing seat as the Vatican and the presiding pontiff as the Pope.
Catholicism still remains the largest Christian denomination. It is the church that is followed by most of Latin America. It has millions of believers in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Southern Europe also has a big following in Spain, Italy and Portugal. In Eastern and Western Europe countries of Ireland and Poland profess Catholicism as the primary denominations of those countries.
From the fifteenth century onwards the world witnessed increasing incidence of breakaway form the core church of Rome. The Western Europeans were at the forefront of this trend, especially the British, Dutch and Germans. As they began to assume greater wealth and political power based on the success of their imperialist exploits around the world, they also sought greater autonomy from Rome.
Independence from the political power of Rome is probably best illustrated in the case of Britain and the rise of the Protestant church. It all began with King Henry the Eighth who was married to the Spanish queen Catherine of Aragon. He wanted to divorce her and marry the English girl Anne Boleyn but was prevented from doing so by Roman doctrine. It was decided that the King of England should be head of its own English church and the Protestant Church of England was born.
As history continued to unfold itself, the protestant church in turn began to suffer breakaways that have continued to happen till modern times. With the emergence of hundreds of new denominations, Catholicism remains the single largest church. The earliest breakaways have grown into large denominations in their own right. These include Baptists and Methodists. Similar processes were happening in Europe and Churches such as the Lutheran and Dutch Reform came into being. America also contributed to the trend. It offered sanctuary to various new churches that were considered heretics in the countries of origin.
African Americans, Africans in the Caribbean and Africans in Africa were all first evangelised by the biggest churches, mainly Catholicism and Methodists etcetera. However, they preferred the charismatic churches and among them Pentecostal denominations grew. Indeed it is the Pentecostal varieties of the church that are the fastest growing in the world today.
In an attempt to win back some of the people who are now followers of other denominations, some Catholic evangelization may be of some help. Evangelistic ministries have been successful in the growth of newer churches so there is something to be learned.