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Catholic population continues growth in Africa and Asia


Adriana Mahdalova | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 10/23/21

Europe losing both Catholics and priests, Vatican report points out.

While the Catholic population of Europe continues to decline, the religion continues its upward trend in other parts of the world, especially Africa.

Fides News Service, information of the Pontifical Mission Societies, in time for World Mission Sunday October 24, reported statistics from the latest edition of the Church’s Book of Statistics. The latest year for which data is available is 2019, so these numbers do not reflect the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the end of 2019, the world’s population had reached 7,577,777,000, with an increase of 81,383,000 over the previous year. Population growth was registered on every continent, including Europe. Increases were registered above all in Asia (+40,434,000) and in Africa (+33,360,000), followed by the Americas (+6,973,000), Europe (+157,000) and Oceania (+459,000). 

Africa was the only continent where the number of seminarians increased.

At the same time, Catholics in the world numbered 1,344,403,000, with an overall increase of 15,410,000 over the previous year. The increase affects all continents, except Europe, where the Catholic population fell by 292,000. 

“As in the past, increases were registered above all in Africa (+8,302,000) and in America (+5,373,000), followed by Asia (+1,909,000) and Oceania (+118,000),” Fides said. 

The total number of priests in the world increased to 414,336 (+271). The continents which registered decreases were Europe (-2,608), the Americas (-690), and Oceania (-69). Increases were registered in Africa (+1,649) and in Asia (+1,989).

The number of women religious decreased by 11,562, to a total of 630,099. An increase, once again was registered in Africa (+835) and in Asia (+599), with decreases in Europe (-7,400), the Americas (-5,315) and Oceania (–281).

The number of lay missionaries in the world is 410,440, with an overall increase of 34,252. Catechists decreased by 2,590, to a total of 3,074,034. 

The number of major seminarians — diocesan and religious — decreased by 1,822, for a total of 114,058. Increases were registered only in Africa (+509), with decreases in Asia (-898), Oceania (-53), Europe (-630) and the Americas (-750). 

In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 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. In addition there are 3,833,012 students in Catholic universities. 

Church-run charity and healthcare centers in the world include: 5,245 hospitals, most of them in Africa (1,418) and in the Americas (1,362); 14,963 dispensaries, mainly in Africa (5,307), the Americas (4,043); 532 care homes for people with leprosy, mainly in Asia (269) and Africa (201); 15,429 homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8,031) and in the Americas (3,642); 9,374 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3,233) and in Europe (2,247); 10,723 creches, mainly in Asia (2,973) and in the Americas (2,957); 12,308 marriage counseling centers, mainly in Europe (5,504) and the Americas (4,289); 3,198 social rehabilitation centers and 33,840 other kinds of institutes.  

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