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The world population of Catholics increased by 14 million

J-P Mauro - published on 10/22/18 - updated on 10/22/18

The 2016 statistics saw steady Church growth worldwide.

Every year, just in time for World Mission Day, Agenzia Fides releases a report which takes stock of the world’s population of Catholics. This year, in celebration of their 92nd WMD, they announced that the Church had grown by 14 million faithful since 2015. The numbers are taken from the “Church’s Book of Statistics,” which examines members of the Church, church structures, healthcare, welfare, and education.

In 2016, the world population stood at around 7.35 billion people, which was an increase of about 103 million from the previous year. Of the entire human population, nearly 1.3 billion people recognize themselves as Catholic, which is nearly 18% of the world’s population. Although the number of new Catholics increased by over 14 million, due to death or conversion, the worldwide percentage of Catholics dropped by .05%.

Increases in the Catholic population were observed in all continents, except for Europe, which for the third consecutive year dropped by about 240,000. The continent which demonstrated the greatest Catholic growth was Africa, with over six million new Catholics in 2016.


This year, the number of Catholics per priest increased by 39 units, to an average of 3,130. While this suggests the church is still in great need of vocations, this number increased in every continent besides Asia. The total number of priests in the world dropped by 687 and totals about 415,000. The only continent which saw a major decrease in priests was Europe, which lost about 2,500. This decrease was also only seen in priests from religious communities, which fell by about 1,000. Diocesan priests experienced a growth of about 317.

The total number of bishops increased world wide by 49, raising the total of Catholic bishops to 5,353. Both diocesan and religious bishops increased by over 20 world wide. There were 1,057 new permanent deacons named in 2016, a number which rose across the board, on every continent.

For the fourth consecutive year, a decrease was observed in diocesan priests by about 1,600, down to about 53,000. This decrease was seen in all continents. The year 2016 also saw a great decrease in the number of women from religious communities, which fell by nearly 11,000.

Missionaries and Vocations

Members of both male and female secular institutes both saw decreases across the world in 2016. The only exception to this was in Africa, where they saw an increase in members of female secular institutes. This was, however, the only upward trend in this category.

Missionaries, on the other hand, rose by about 3,000 worldwide. The only continent which experienced a significant decrease in lay missionaries is Asia, where the number dropped dramatically by nearly 1,600. The number of catechists in the world decreased by nearly 37,000. The only continent which saw an increase in catechists was Africa, which grew by over 10,000. America lost over 20,000 catechists and Asia and Europe each dropped by about 13,000.

The total number of seminarians dropped overall, however diocesan seminarians rose by nearly 1,000. Religious seminarians took a hit in all continents except for Africa, which saw more than 1,000 vocations in both their religious and diocesan seminarians.

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