The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

World Catholic Population Growing

The Vatican has just released it new Statistical Yearbook of the Church covering the years 2000-2008. During that time the world population of Catholics increased by over 11% to 1.16 billion people. Sometimes I think all 1.16 billion of them are trying to attend one of the nine Masses our rapidly growing parish celebrates each weekend here in central Florida. Often it's standing room only at Mass with our poor, little church building bursting at the seams. This occurs only during the winter months when -- as the locals would say it -- "all them Yankees descend on us." We are, of course, happy to deal with the problem of overcrowding when so many churches must cope with the opposite.

But enough about our parish...back to the universal Church. Despite everything the Church has encountered, from indifference to media bias to scandals to active persecution, it continues to grow, thanks to the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of so many who do God's work in His vineyard. As you can see below, Asia and Africa are the primary drivers of Church growth with Europe lagging far behind.

Poor Europe...the cradle of Christendom continues in its moral and spiritual decay and is now essentially a pagan continent with only a few bright spots where the Faith remains strong. When I travel to Europe, and especially to areas where the Catholic Church was traditionally strong, I occasionally ask those I meet if they are Christian. Most say, "No", and many claim to be atheists or, at best, agnostics. It's all very sad. But I am convinced that the Church can and will regain its strength in Europe as people come to realize that the Church and its teachings offer the only true path to genuine freedom here on earth and to salvation in eternity. Pray for the Church throughout the world, but especially in Europe.

The following brief story on the Vatican's announcement was published by Zenit News out of Rome:

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2010 ( The Vatican announced today that its publishing house has released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information from 2000 to 2008, including that the number of Catholics in the world is now 1.16 billion.

Over these nine years, the Catholic presence in the world has grown from 1.045 billion in 2000 to 1.166 billion in 2008, an increase of 11.54%. Considering the statistics in detail, numbers in Africa grew by 33%, in Europe they remained generally stable (an increase of 1.17%), while in Asia they increased by 15.61%, in Oceania by 11.39% and in America by 10.93%. As a percentage of the total population, European Catholics represented 26.8% in 2000 and 24.31% in 2008. In America and Oceania they have remained stable, and increased slightly in Asia.

The number of bishops in the world went up from 4,541 in 2000 to 5,002 in 2008, an increase of 10.15%.

The number of priests also increased slightly over this nine-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of 0.98%. In Africa and Asia their numbers increased (respectively, by 33.1% and 23.8%); in the Americas they remained stable, while they fell by 7% in Europe and 4% in Oceania.

The number of diocesan priests increased by 3.1%, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 274,007 in 2008. By contrast, the number of regular priests showed a constant decline, down by 3.04% to 135,159 in 2008. Of the continents, only Europe showed a clear reduction in priests: in 2000 they represented 51% of the world total, in 2008 just 47%. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5% of the world total in 2000 and 21.9% in 2008. The Americas slightly increased its percentage to around 30% of the total.

Non-ordained religious numbered 55,057 in the year 2000 and 54,641 in 2008. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 16.57%), as did Oceania (22.06%); the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa grew (by 32% and 10.47%, respectively).

Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008. As for their geographical distribution, 41% reside in Europe, 27.47% in America, 21.77% in Asia and 1.28% in Oceania. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 21%) and Asia (up by 16%).

The Statistical Yearbook of the Church also includes information on the number of philosophy and theology students in diocesan and religious seminaries. In global terms, their numbers increased from 110,583 in 2000 to more than 117,024 in 2008. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up, whereas Europe saw a reduction.


1 comment:

  1. Actually the figures 1.045 billion & 1.16 billion should be subtracted by at least one. I know the way the Vatican counts heads is by counting baptisms.

    I was baptized in 1986 at the age of 26 at All Souls in Englewood, CO. I left the Church in 2000 at age 30. In 2001 at age 41 I embraced Islam. Though I know I am still counted among the Faithful even though I have changed my Faith.