"The Christian faith is born precisely because, as Saint Matthew says in Chapter 28, Jesus gave the last commandment, the last mandate to his disciples: Thus go, baptise, and make disciples.” The number of Catholics in the world is up, but their proportion is down. The number of bishops is up, as are permanent deacons, but that of priests and religious is down.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The 91st World Mission Day will take place tomorrow. Card Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, presented the event yesterday at the Holy See Press Office. He stated that the mission “belongs to everyone”. It is not a matter for priests and religious only but involves the whole Church, including the laity, because it responds to Jesus' mandate: "Thus go, baptise, and make disciples!"
"The Christian faith," said the cardinal, "is born precisely because, as Saint Matthew says in Chapter 28, Jesus gave the last commandment, the last mandate to his disciples: Go therefore, baptise, and make disciples.”
Reassuringly, Jesus also notes that “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Thus, He does not give up the missionary life but hands it over to the apostles, to the Church, and continues to be present in the missionary work. Hence, basically, the missionary never goes out alone."
In presenting the Day, the cardinal referred to Pope Francis's message, released at Pentecost: ‘The Mission at the Heart of the Christian Faith’. The pontiff stressed three basic questions.
The first one is "What is the foundation of the mission?" The answer is evident, clear. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” This is the foundation of the mission: to bring Jesus as a way, truth, and life. If this were not done, the pope says, then we could be in a phase of ideology, a certain teaching, but not a mechanism desired by Jesus, that is, salvation, sanctification, grace, and goodness for mankind.
The second question that the Pope asks is 'What is the heart of the mission?' He answers by saying that the heart of the mission is this encounter with Christ every person has the right to have.
The pope's third question is: 'What are the vital attitudes of the mission?' Here too he says that the vital attitude for the mission is a dimension of exodus. To carry out this exodus, it is not enough to go out, but refers to ‘spirituality', a spiritual exodus ".
During the press conference, some statistics were made public about the situation of the Catholic Church in the world, elaborated by the Fides news agency on the basis of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church.
The data show that as of 31 December 2015, Catholics numbered 1,284,810,000, up by 12,529,000. The rise affects all continents, except for a second year in a row Europe. The main rise is in Africa (+7,411,000), the Americas (+4,756,000), followed by Asia (+ 1,583,000) and Oceania (+123,000). Europe saw a decline (-1,344,000). Proportionately, Catholics fell by 0.05% to 17.72%.
The total number of bishops in the world rose by 67, to 5,304, whilst the number of priests in the world dropped by 136 over the previous year, to 415,656. The decline was particularly relevant again in Europe (-2,502). Increases were recorded in Africa (+1,133), the Americas (+47), Asia (+1,104) and Oceania (+82).
Non-priest men religious declined for the third consecutive year by 330, to 54,229. Again this year, Africa saw an increase (+23) followed by Asia (+772). The Americas experienced a decline (-315) as did Europe (-784) and Oceania (-26). The downward trend for women religious continued (-12,399) as well, each year more than the previous one. Altogether there are 670,330 women religious. Africa saw gains (+959) as did Asia (+930), offset by losses in the Americas (- 5.652), Europe (-8.394) and Oceania (-242).
The number of permanent deacons in the world also rose this year, by 689, to 45,255. The largest increase took place in America (+656), followed by Europe (+22), Asia (+12) and Oceania (+1). A slight decrease was recorded in Africa (-2).
The number of lay missionaries in the world stands at 351,797, with a total drop of 16,723, particularly in the Americas (-13,506), Europe (-2,837) and Asia (-1,117). Increases were recorded in Africa (+679) and Oceania (+1). Catechists in the world declined by 142,115 to 3,122,653. Asia experienced gains (+9,400) as did Oceania (+340). Conversely, Africa saw a decline (-100,874), as did the Americas (-3,048) and Europe (-7,933).
Major, diocesan and religious seminarians also declined this year, albeit to a lesser extent than last year, (-96) to 116,843. Africa saw gains (+479) as did Asia (+272), whilst the number dropped in the Americas (-473), Europe (-366) and Oceania (-8).
The minor diocesan seminarians stand at 80,098 (+1,609) whilst religious seminarians number 24,253 (-200). Among diocesan seminarians, all continents saw gains: Africa (+784), the Americas (+267), Asia (+400), Europe (+138), Oceania (+20). Minor religious seminarians were also up in Africa (+130) and America (+6), but down in Asia (-281), Europe (-48) and Oceania (-7).
In the field of education, the Church runs 73,489 nursery schools around the world with 7,043,922 pupils; 95,644 primary schools with 33,289,532 pupils; 47,415 secondary schools with 20,015,659 pupils. It also has 2,535,327 high school students and 2,904,964 university students.
Church-run charities include: 5,391 hospitals, mostly in the Americas (1,627) and Africa (1,295); 16,610 dispensaries, mostly in Africa (5,181), the Americas (4,731) and Asia (3,520); 604 leprosariums, mainly in Asia (296) and Africa (187); 16,270 homes for the elderly, chronically ill and disabled, mostly in Europe (8,348) and the Americas (4,086); 9,924 orphanages, mostly in Asia (3,934); 12,376 kindergartens mainly in the Americas (3,435) and Asia (3,247); 14,551 marriage counselling centres, mostly in Europe (5,666) and the Americas (5,546); 3,776 centres of education or social re-education, and 38,484 other institutions.