Catholicism growing everywhere but Europe

A man prays at St Martin Church near Nantes, France (CNS/Stephane Mahe, Reuters)

A Vatican census reveals growing numbers of Catholics in what Pope Francis often refers to as “the global peripheries”, even as the number of believers continues to diminish in Europe. Source: NCR Online.

The number of Catholics in the world grew by more than 15 million from 2018 to 2019, according to a census by the Vatican news agency Fides published last week. “The increase applies to all continents, except Europe,” which saw the number of Catholic faithful decrease by almost 300,000, the survey found.

The data was released for World Mission Day, which was celebrated on Sunday.

According to the census, conducted annually among Catholic faithful, Catholics represented 17.7 per cent of the global population in 2019. As Catholicism gained followers in Africa, the Americas and Asia, the Church’s numbers waned in Europe, the historic basin of Catholicism that is now increasingly becoming a mission territory.

While the number of Catholic priests has grown overall, Europe has seen a consistent decrease in clergy, where the number of faithful per priest grew to more than 3245-to-1. For the seventh year in a row, the number of religious brothers and sisters has declined everywhere, with Africa as the only exception. Religious sisters experienced the sharpest decline, losing 11,562 members.

Seminarians studying to become priests also shrunk globally, especially in minor seminaries for people between 11 and 18 years old. Bishops diminished by 13, now totalling 5364 globally.

While clergy members experienced a steep fall worldwide, the number of lay missionaries grew significantly, especially in the Americas and Africa, with only a small decrease in Asia. Catechists saw their numbers reduced by 2590, with the Americas and Europe registering the highest drops.


Vatican census shows Catholicism growing everywhere but Europe (By Claire Giangrave, CNS via NCR Online)

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