04/16/2015, 00.00
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More Catholic believers and priests in the world

The Statistical Yearbook of the Church shows an increase in both the number of Catholics – 1.254 billion – and their share – 17.7 per cent – of the world’s population. In Asia, Catholics rose by 17.4 per cent and now constitute 3.2 of the continent’s population.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The number of Catholics in the world is up. The same is true for the number of people involved in the apostolate, especially permanent deacons. However, the number of professed women religious and priestly vocations are down, this according to the 2013 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, which was released today in the Vatican.

Between 2005 and 2013, the number of baptised Catholics rose by more than 12 per cent in the world’s 2,989 ecclesiastical districts. The overall number of Catholics jumped from 1.115 to 1.254 billion, for a total gain of 139 million baptised believers. In the same period, the world population went from 6.463 to 7.094 billion. Catholics now represent 17.7 per cent up from 17.3.

However, these figures mask significant differences among the continents. In Europe, the situation is stationary because of the continent’s well-known demographic trends, with a currently stable population that is expected to decline sharply over the coming decades. In the Old Continent, Catholics numbered 287 million, up by 6.5 million compared to 2005.

The opposite is true in Africa, where Catholics rose by 34 per cent. In 2005, they were 153 million; in 2013, they were 206 million. This is only partly due to the birth rate, but reflects a real increase in the number of baptised. In 2005, Catholics were 17.1 per cent of the African population; eight years later, they accounted for almost 19 per cent.

In the Americas and Asia, Catholics saw a substantial increase (+10.5 and +17.4 per cent respectively), mostly due to natural growth. The Catholic share of the population in the Americas remained 63 per cent; in Asia, it went from 2.9 in 2005 to 3.2 per cent in 2013.

Like the Americas, the proportion of baptised Catholics remained stable in Oceania but out of smaller population base.

Turning to the apostolate, the number of bishops, priests, permanent deacons, professed men and women religious, members of secular institutes, lay missionaries and catechists stood at 4,762,458 at the end of 2013, an increase of just under 300,000 compared to 2005.

However, the figures vary considerably according to continent. The average ratio of bishops, priests and deacons to all other pastoral workers was 9.7 per cent of 2013. However, it was lower than average ​​in Africa (8.1 per cent) and in South-East Asia (9.4 per cent) and higher ​​in Europe (19 per cent) and North America (12.5 per cent). Thus, in mission territories the lay apostolate appears be more important.

As of 31 December 2013, there were 5,173 bishops in the various ecclesiastic districts, up by 40 with a 41.5 annual average increase over the eight-year period.

In the year that followed 31 December 2012 , North America and Oceania lost 6 and 5 bishops respectively, offset by gains in Central and South America (+23), Africa (+5) Asia (+14) and Europe (+9).

However, the variation for the 2012-2013 period was minimal. The Americas and Europe still retain the lion’s share of all bishops in the world (37.4 and 31.4 per cent respectively); far behind, we find Asia (15.1 per cent), Africa (13.6 per cent) and Oceania (2.5 per cent).

One interesting aspect is the gradual rise of native bishops in lieu of missionary bishops in local hierarchies. Thus, the ratio between non-native vs native bishops for the 2005-2013 period saw a decline in Oceania, Africa and America, and a slight increase in Europe and Asia.

Between 2011 and 2013, the number of priests – secular and religious – rose from 414,313 to 415 348, for a gain of 0.3 per cent.

Regionally, the number of priests rose in Central America (+1.6 per cent), South America (+1.0 per cent), South-East Asia (+2.4 per cent), and Africa (+4.2 per cent), but dropped in North America and Europe (-1.4 and -1.2 per cent respectively).

Between 2005 and 2013, the overall number of priests rose by 2.2 per cent. However, here too, regional variations were important: Africa and Asia gained (+29.2 per cent +22.8 per cent respectively), whilst Europe lost (-7.1 per cent). The Americas saw below average growth (+1.7 per cent), but whilst South and Central America gained 11.5 per cent, North America lost 10.4 per cent.

The distribution of priests shows regional concentrations. In 2013, 44.3 per cent of priests were in Europe but just under 23 per cent of all Catholics lived in the Old Continent. The Americas had 29.6 per cent of all priests but 49 per cent of all Catholics. Home to 10.9 per cent of all Catholics, Asia’s share of priests stood at 14.8 per cent. Africa had 10.1 per cent of all priests and 16.4 per cent of all Catholics. Oceania had 1.2 per cent of all priests but represented only 0.8 per cent of the world’s Catholic population.

The number of permanent deacons, diocesan and men religious shot up overall and in each continent, from 33,391 in 2005 to more than 43,000 in 2013, an actual gain of 29 per cent.

Europe and the Americas saw the greatest jump. The number of deacons in Europe rose from just under 11,000 in 2005 to more than 14,000 at the end of 2013, a 30 per cent increase. In the Americas, the number went from 21,000 at nearly 28,000 in 2013. Together the two regions represented 97.6 per cent of all deacons in 2013 with rest divided between Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The number of professed men religious who are not priests rose by 1 per cent between 2005 and 2013. In 2005, they were 54,708; in 2013, there were just over 55,000.

Africa and Asia saw gains (+6 per cent and +30 per cent, respectively). In 2013, the two continents had more than 36 per cent of the total (up from 31 per cent in 2005). By contrast, Europe, the Americas and Oceania lost more than 5 per cent (-10.9 per cent, -2.8 per cent, and -2 per cent respectively.

The number of professed women fell between 2012 and 2013 by 1.3 per cent, the same annual average for the 2005-2013 period, going from 760,529 in 2005 to 693,575 in 2013, for a loss of 8.8 per cent.

The decline was most pronounced in Europe, America and Oceania (-18.3 per cent, -15.5 per cent, and -17.1 per cent respectively). Africa and Asia experienced significant gains, up by more than 18 per cent in Africa and 10 per cent in Asia.

In terms of regional distribution, the variation between 2005 and 2013 saw no change in Oceania. Europe went from 42.5 to 38.0 per cent, as the Americas dropped from 28.3 to 26.2 per cent. Asia’s share went from 20.2 to 23.8 per cent and Africa’s rose from 7.7 to 10.1 per cent.

After a period of steady and sustained growth up to 2011, the number of priestly vocations began to decline. The total number of students enrolled in philosophy and theology courses in diocesan centres and seminaries dropped by 2 per cent between 2011 and 2013, from 120,616 to 118,251.

The trend spared no region, except for Africa, which saw a 1.5 per cent rise, but with localised differences.

In North America, particularly in the United States, the decline was substantial (-5.2 per cent). Central America saw a decline of 0.1 per cent, whilst South America lost 7 per cent, with Colombia (-10.5 per cent), Chile (-11.2 per cent) and Peru (-11.2 per cent) leading the way. Brazil was close to the average (-6.7 per cent).

Between 2011 and 2013, priestly vocations also declined in Asia, by 0.5 per cent, mostly in Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines. Conversely, India saw a 0.5 per cent increase.

Vocations dropped by 3.6 per cent in Europe over the same period, especially in Poland (-10.0 per cent), the UK (-11.5 per cent), Germany (-7.7 per cent), Czech Republic (-13.0 per cent), Austria (-10.9 per cent), France (-3.5 per cent) and Spain (-1.8 per cent). They rose instead in Italy (+0.3 per cent), Ukraine (+4.5 per cent) and Belgium (+7.5 per cent). In in Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the situation was stable.

In Oceania, the number of seminarians dropped by 5.1 per cent between 2011 and 2013.

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