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This is our Church: more Catholics, more parishes, fewer priests

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/01/15

Some highlights of a CARA reportreleased today:

Arguably, the three most important indicators of “vitality” for the Catholic Church are the number of Catholics, the number of parishes, and the number of priests. …Overall, the global Catholic population has grown by 57 percent since 1980. However, this growth differs by region, with Europe’s Catholic population growing by just 6 percent while the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 238 percent. Differences between these two regions are largely attributable to differences in fertility rates over time. …Since 1980, the Church has had a net gain of nearly 15,300 parishes representing 7 percent growth. However, with the population growing by 57 percent during this period there has been a lag in constructing the brick and mortar of the Church. In 1980 there were 3,759 Catholics per parish in the world. This figure now stands at 5,491 Catholics per parish. …One of the limitations on the construction of a new parish is the availability of priests to pastor these new communities. Globally, the Church had 20,547 fewer priests, diocesan and religious combined, in 2012 than it did in 1980. That is a decline of 17 percent. The most serious decline was Europe, which had a net loss of 78,090 priests during this period, representing a 32 percent decline in this population. Where the Catholic population is growing, so are the numbers of priests. The number of priests more than doubled in Africa (adding 22,787 priest for a 131 percent increase) and Asia (adding 32,906 priests for a 121 percent increase) between 1980 and 2012.  A growing phenomenon within the Church is the use of African and Asian priests in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere where there are too few native priests to staff parishes. Globally, the ratio of Catholics per priest worsened, as the number of Catholics per priest increased from 1,895 in 1980 to 3,126 in 2012. Given the prevailing trends for population, parishes, and priests, the Church is likely to continue to realign in the coming decades. In 2012, Europe was home to less than one in four Catholics (23 percent). Yet this region still has 55 percent of all Catholic parishes and 42 percent of all Catholic priests. It is likely that Europe faces a future of fewer priests and more parish closures while growth in priests and parishes is likely to continue in Asia and Africa.

And there is this:

Diocesan bishops, priests, and deacons are increasing in number in the Americas as the number of religious priests, brothers, and sisters decline. The Catholic population of this region is expected to grow from 598.8 million now to 690.1 million in 2040. This region is in need of many new parishes, with the ratio of Catholics per parish currently exceeding 10,000. Sacramental practice in the Americas has been waning and some of this may be related to issues of access to nearby parishes with available priests.

Check out much more at the CARA link.

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