For the 91st World Mission Sunday on October 22, 2017, the press agency Fides published statistics on the state of the Church in the world as of December 31, 2015.
Several lessons can be gained by a study of these statistics:
As far as the total number of Catholics in the world goes: on December 31, 2015, there were 1,284,810,000, which is a total increase of 12,529,000. This number must however be considered in the light of the increase in the world population: the percentage of Catholics has remained quite stable, with a decrease of 0.05%, placing them at 17.72% of humanity.
Another reality: for the second year in a row, this increase in the number of Catholics can be observed in every continent except Europe. On the “old continent”, while the population has increased, the number of Catholics represents only 39.87% of the European population – 285 million people – which is a decrease of 0.21% compared to the preceding study: Europe is slowly being de-Christianized.
There are 3,006 Catholic ecclesiastical districts – dioceses, vicariates, apostolic prefectures, etc. – throughout the world, which is eight more than in 2014. The number of bishops has increased by 67 – there were 5,304 on December 31, 2017 – but the number of priests has dropped by 136, to a total of 415,656.
351,797 lay missionaries and 3,122,653 catechists also work in the apostolate.
In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 216,548 establishments throughout the world, attended by 60 million students. 5.5 million young people are doing their postgraduate studies in Catholic institutions or universities.
Finally, there exist some 118,000 Catholic social and charitable institutions – hospitals, leper hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes – throughout the world.