It has become an obligatory point of passage for observers of Catholicism. On Mission Sunday the information organ of the Pontifical Mission Societies publishes the statistics of the Catholic Church. The prediction according to which the center of gravity of the Church looks to be shifting from North and South America to Africa, and especially to Asia, in the coming decades, is being confirmed.
The file published by Fides on October 23, 2022 consists of a snapshot of the Catholic Church at the end of 2020, because it takes time to trace the “terrain” and meticulously collect the numerous statistical data.
Thus, as of December 31, 2020, the world population stood at 7.66 billion people, with an increase of 89.35 million compared to the previous year, an increase that mainly affects Asia and Africa.
On the same date, the number of Catholics was 1.36 billion faithful with a total increase of 15.21 million compared to the previous year. It should be noted that the percentage of Catholics in relation to the world population has very slightly decreased (-0.01%) compared to the previous year, to settle at 17.73%.
The increase in the number of Catholics is particularly seen in Africa and Asia, with Oceania being the only continent where this number is declining.
The number of Catholics per priest has increased overall to reach the average figure of one priest for 3,314 faithful. This increase is mostly taking place on the North and South American and Oceanic continents and in Europe, a sign of a slowing priestly vocations in these parts of the world where the Western way of life and secularization gain more and more terrain.
In the same vein, what is lamentable is a decrease in the number of priests in the world, which stands at 410,219, or 4,117 fewer priests than during the last census.
Once again, it is Europe that shows a steady decline, followed by North and South America and Oceania. On the other hand, there is an increase in the number of priests in Africa and Asia: the lungs of the Church are breathing slowly but surely in these two regions of the world.
Permanent deacons continue to increase overall, this year by 397, reaching 48,635.
Apart from Africa, the number of diocesan and religious seminarians decreased overall to reach 111,855, or 2,203 fewer compared to the previous collection of statistics. North and South America and Europe are experiencing the greatest decline in this area. Consumerist societies do not really encourage generosity and the spirit of sacrifice.
There are a total of 1,118 ecclesiastical districts dependent on the Dicastery for Evangelization – which succeeds the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, formerly Propaganda Fide – according to the last modification recorded.
Most of the ecclesiastical districts entrusted to the dicastery in charge of dioceses in mission territories are in Africa (518) and in Asia (483), which gives an idea of the vast zone where the center of gravity of the Church may move in the coming decades.