Number of Catholics increasing, but not in Europe

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

According to the latest data released by Fides for World Mission Sunday, the number of Catholics has increased worldwide, with the exception of Europe.

The total number of Catholics now stands at more than 1.085 billion, making up 17.23% of the world’s population.

Data taken from the Church’s most recent statistical yearbook of December 2003 showed that the number of Catholics increased in Africa by 0.34%, America by 0.17%, Asia by 0.03% and Oceania by 0.37%.

However, the number of Catholics decreased in Europe by 0.31%.

Overall, there was a slight increase in the number of priests worldwide, a decrease in the number of women religious, and a significant increase in the number of lay missionaries and catechists.

The total number of priests in the world increased by 392 from 2002, and now totals 405,450. The highest increases were in Africa (up 1,145) and Asia (up 1,010).

Only Europe posted a loss, down 1,897, although their number of permanent deacons increased by 336.

Worldwide, permanent deacons increased by 1,427, to 31,524. The biggest increase was in the Americas, up 1,075 from 2002.

On the down side, the number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious, decreased by 826, to a total of 112,373, though overall increases were posted in Asia, up 686 and Oceania, up 9.

The number of lay missionaries increased dramatically by 28,586, to 172,331, with increases on all continents. Most lay missionaries are in the Americas (156,461) where their ranks rose by 21,815.

While the number of women religious fell, members of female secular institutes increased by 720, to a total of 28,916. Members of male secular institutions rose as well.

The Pontifical Yearbook, a volume of more than 2,100 pages, lists the names and essential information on all the bishops and dioceses of the Catholic Church. It also lists persons who work in organizations of the Holy See, religious congregations, and educational and ecclesiastical institutions.