Catholics number 1,344,403,000, 17.74 per cent of the world population

Catholics are up by more than 15 million people, almost 2 million in Asia. Worldwide, the number of priests is up (+1.989 in Asia); so is the number of deacons but not in Asia (-11). There are fewer bishops and major seminarians. Mission stations (3,217) with a resident priest are up (+301) in every continent (+88 in Asia).

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Catholics numbered 1,344,403,000 as of 31 December 2019, up by 15,410,000 over the previous year, while the world population stood at 7,577,777,000, up by 81,383,000 over the same period, Agenzia Fides reported to mark the 95th World Mission Day, which will be celebrated on 24 October.

The increase touches every continent, except Europe (-292,000). As in the past, the highest increases were reported in Africa (+8,302,000), Americas (+5,373,000), Asia (+1,909,000), and Oceania (+118,000).

The worldwide percentage of Catholics increased compared to the previous year, reaching 17.74 per cent. With respect to the continents, variations are minimal: increases in Africa (+0.14), Asia (+0.02), and the Americas (+0.09); decrease in Europe (-0.05); no change in Oceania.

The number of bishops dropped by 13 to 5,364. Diocesan bishops gained 12 new members, but religious bishops declined by 25. Diocesan bishops increased in Africa (+11), Asia (+5), Europe (+4) and Oceania (+2); decreased only in America (-10). Religious bishops declined on all continents: Africa (-6), America (-7), Asia (-5), Europe (-4) and Oceania (-3).

The total number of priests in the world went up, to 414,336 (+271). Europe again reported a major drop (-2,608) as did the Americas (-690) and Oceania (-69). Increases were reported in Africa (+1,649) and Asia (+1,989).

Permanent deacons also increased (+734) to 48,238. The largest gain was in the Americas (+562), followed by Europe (+177), Oceania (+5), Africa (+1), decreasing only in Asia (-11).

The number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious, decreased (-1,822) to 114,058, in Asia (-898), Oceania (-53), Europe (-630), and the Americas (-750). Only Africa reported a net gain (+509).

There are 68,609 major diocesan and 45,449 religious seminarians, down by 1,350 and 427 respectively. Diocesan major seminarians gained only Africa (+224), and lost in Europe (-688), the Americas (-784), Asia (-102); in Oceania the number remain unchanged. Major religious seminarians increased in Africa (+285), Europe (+58), and the Americas (+34), but declined in Asia (-796) and Oceania (-53).

For the seventh consecutive year, the number of non-religious priests dropped by 646, to 50,295: down in Europe (-236), the Americas (-390), Oceania (-86) and Asia (-23); up only in Africa (+89).

In 2019, an overall drop of 11,562 was reported in the number of women religious, to a total of 630,099. Africa and Asia reported an increase (+835 and +599 respectively); Europe was down (-7,400), as were the Americas (-5,315) and Oceania (–281).

Mission stations with a resident priest numbered 3,217 (+301), up in every continent, especially Africa (+138), Asia (+88), and the Americas (+56). Mission Stations without a resident priest decreased by 5,836, for a total 131,407: down in Africa (-4,382), Asia (-358), Europe (-58), and the Americas (-1,113); only increase in Oceania (+75).

The number of lay missionaries in the world stood at 410,440, with an overall increase of 34,252, up in Europe (+277), the Americas (+33,930), Oceania (+29), and Africa (+566), but down in Asia (-550).

In the world, the number of catechists dropped by 2,590 to a total 3,074,034. Decreases were reported in the Americas (-15,651), Europe (-5,658), Oceania (-485), up in Africa (+6,808) and Asia (+12,396).

In the area of education, the Catholic Church ran 72,667 kindergartens with 7,532,992 pupils, 98,925 primary schools with 35,188,771 pupils, and 49,552 secondary schools with 19,370,763 pupils. Some 2,395,540 high school students and 3,833,012 university students are in the care of the Catholic Church

Catholic charity and healthcare facilities include: 5,245 hospitals, mostly in Africa (1,418) and in the Americas (1,362); 14,963 dispensaries, mainly in Africa (5,307), the Americas (4,043); 532 care facilities for people with leprosy, mainly in Asia (269) and Africa (201); 15,429 homes for seniors, the chronically ill and people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8,031) and the Americas (3,642); 9,374 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3,233) and Europe (2,247); 10,723 creches, mainly in Asia (2,973) and the Americas (2,957); 12,308 marriage counselling centres, mainly in Europe (5,504) and the Americas (4,289); 3,198 social rehabilitation centres, and 33,840 other facilities.

At a press conference held today, Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), noted that next year, 2022, will mark several anniversaries linked to the missionary world.

They include: 400 years of the congregation, 200 years since the foundation of the first Mission Society, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and 100 years since the elevation to Pontifical status of three of the four societies.

Against the backdrop, celebrations are planned in Lyon on 22 May for the beatification of Pauline Jaricot, founder of the first Mission Society.

An “exceptional” woman, she “set in motion a true spiritual missionary movement thanks to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which spread at grass-roots level immediately, also because it was built on a simple but ingenious system: groups of 10 people, who then gathered in 100 and then in a thousand with a person in charge at each level.”

“The Bulletin of the Society sold 10,000 copies in 1825, 40,000 by 1830, not counting translations. Bishop Forbin-Janson turned to Pauline when he wished to apply this model to the nascent Society of the Missionary Childhood.

“I can say without hesitation that the contribution of the Societies, which originated from this intuition, was essential for the history of the missions in the 19th and 20th centuries, because they involved the base of the Catholic faithful and made them aware of the mission.”