CNA/EWTN News is reporting on the latest statistics, released April 6 by the Vatican and contained within the 2017 Pontifical Yearbook and the 2015 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae which is compiled by the Central Office of Church Statistics and published by the Vatican Press.
The highlight of the report shows that on a global scale, the number of Catholics grew from 1.272 billion in 2014 to 1.285 in 2015, which represents nearly 18 percent of the world’s population.
This “confirms the positive trend in the number of Catholics in the world, especially in the African continent, whose relative weight continues to increase over time,” the report states.
The growth of the Catholic Church in Africa continues to outpace the rest of the world with the number of baptized Catholics on the continent growing from 15.5 to 17.3 percent of all Catholics globally.
The Church in the Americas and Asia also saw growth, rising 6.7 percent in the Americas and 9.1 percent in Asia, even though these numbers fit with the overall demographic development in the two countries.
The sharpest decline was found in Europe where their contribution to the world’s Catholics dropped from 23.8 percent in 2010 to 22.8 in 2015.
The report reveals a vocation crisis in America where the ratio between Catholics and priests exceeds 5,000 Catholics per priest. Compare this to 1,595 Catholics per priest in Europe and 2,185 Catholic per priest in Asia. Africa is stable at around 5,000 Catholics per priest.
“After reaching a peak in 2011, the overall number of seminarians has undergone a gradual decline,” CNA reports. “Africa is the only continent not to experience this decline, making it the region with the greatest potential in the vocation crisis.”
Other statistics of note include:
• The number of seminarians in the Americas and Europe remain low. In the Americans, there are 53.6 seminarians per one million Catholics; in Europe there are 65.0 seminarians per one million Catholic. This is very low compared to Asia where there are 245.7 seminarians per one million Catholics and Africa’s 130.6.
• The highest percentage of baptized Catholics in the world – 49 percent – is found in the Americas.
• In terms of clergy, although the number of bishops grew relative to the number of Catholics, globally, the number of priests declined in 2015, in contrast to an upward trend from 2010-2014. According to the report, the decline is largely attributable to the geographical areas of Europe and North America.
• The period from 2010 to 2015 saw significant growth in the number of bishops, deacons, lay missionaries and catechists, although the number of professed religious brothers and sisters declined.
To put these numbers is a broader perspective, Pew reports that as of 2010, Christianity remains by the far the world’s largest religion with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, which represents nearly a third (31%) of the 6.9 billion inhabitants of the planet. Islam is the second largest, with 1.6 billion adherents representing 23 percent of the global population.
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