The Catholic Church: The State of Things

October 26, 2020

As every year, Fides - the information body of the Pontifical Mission Societies – has published a certain number of statistics, in order to provide an overview of the state of the Catholic Church in the world. The spiritual decline of Western consumer societies is widely confirmed.

Published on the occasion of the ninety-fourth World Missionary Day, October 18, 2020, the raw data disclosed by the news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies, constitutes an update of the state of things in the Church as of December 31, 2018.

Fides begins by referring to the world population, which rose at the end of 2018, to 7,496,394,000, with an increase of 88,020,000 compared to the previous year, all continents combined.

The number of Catholics stands at 1,328,993,000, with an increase - in absolute terms - of 15,716,000 from the previous year. However, the percentage of Catholics in the world population remains unchanged at 17.73%.

The number of bishops has decreased by 12: they were 5,377 as of December 31, 2018. The number of priests in the world has once again decreased: they were 414,065, or 517 less. A consistent decrease can be seen once again in Europe (-2,675), to which is added [North and South] America (-104). The increases are for Africa (+ 1,391), Asia (+ 823), and Oceania (+ 48).

The number of non-priest religious fell for the sixth consecutive year, by 594, to reach a total of 50,941. The decreases are recorded in Europe (- 591), [North and South] America (- 290) and Oceania (- 17) while increases exist in Africa (+ 217) and Asia (+ 87).

The same trend can be observed with regard to the number of sisters: their number fell by 7,249 to reach that of 641,661. The increases pertain to Africa (+2,220) and Asia (+1,218); the decreases are in Europe (-7,167), [North and South] America (-3,253), and Oceania (-267).

The number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious, has increased, in absolute value, by 552, representing a total of 115,880. The increases are in Africa (+964), Asia (+354), and Oceania ( +52), while the decreases affect Europe (-696) and [North and South] America (-122).

The total number of minor seminarians, diocesan and religious, has decreased over the same period, for the third consecutive year, to reach a total of 100,164. The decrease concerns all continents, except Asia. (+340).

In the areas of instruction and education, the Church operates 73,164 preschools around the world, representing 7,376,858 students; 103,146 primary schools enrolling 35,011,999 pupils, and 49,541 secondary schools supporting 19,307,298 pupils. It also provides training for 2,251,600 young people in higher schools, and 3,707,559 university students.

Church-run charity and relief institutes around the world include: 5,192 hospitals, 15,481 dispensaries, 577 leper hospitals, 15,423 nursing homes for the elderly, chronically ill, and disabled; 9,295 orphanages; 10,747 kindergartens; 12,515 marriage counseling clinics; 3,225 education or social rehabilitation centers, and finally 31,091 charitable institutions.

Raw statistics which have the merit of highlighting once again the slow decline of the largely secularized Old World, once the land of Christendom, today a consumer society at the end of life: a striking contrast with the vitality of Africa and even more that of Asia, probably the future center of gravity of Catholicism on a world scale.