The latest editions of the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae and the Pontifical Yearbook were presented by the Holy See Press Office on June 13, 2018. This update gives a precise idea of where the Church stands in today’s world.
A Stable Number of Baptized Catholics
The number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.285 billion to 1.299 billion between 2015 and 2016. This overall increase is 1.1% less than that of the world’s population over the same period, making the proportion of Catholics 17.67% in 2016, compared to 17.73% the year before.
America a Source of Oxygen for the Church as Europe Runs out of Breath
48.6% of the Church’s members are on the American continent, and most of them (57.5%) live in South America, especially Brazil.
On the Asian continent, the Church is slowly growing. In this zone where 60% of the world’s population is concentrated, the proportion of Catholics is 11%. Most of them – 76% of the Catholics of southeastern Asia – live in the Philippines (85 million Catholics in 2016) and in India (22 million).
Africa is home to 17.6% of the planet’s Catholics and is remarkably dynamic: the number of faithful went from a little over 185 million in 2010 to over 228 million in 2016. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya are the African countries with the most Catholics.
Europe, where nearly 22% of the world’s Catholic population lives, is at a standstill. There was almost no increase in the number of Catholics between 2010 and 2016: 0.2%.
A Stable Number of Priests
In 2016, the number of priests in the world was 414,969; 67.9% of them belong to the diocesan clergy and 32.1% to the religious clergy.
As far as the number of priests goes: there was a weak increase from 2010 to 2014 (+0.22% per year), but the number of priests diminished by 0.2% the following two years, 2015 and 2016.
The decrease mostly occurred in North America (-2.7%), Europe (-2.8%), and the Middle East (-1.7%), while all the other regions saw a 4% to 5% increase, except Central America and Oceania, where the increase was only 2%.
From 2010 to 2016, the number of priests increased by 0.7%, going from 412,236 to 414,969.
The shortage of priests is the most cruelly felt in South America (12.1% of the priests and 27.9% of the Catholics), Africa (10.9% of the priests and 17.6% of the Catholics), and Central America (5.3% of the priests and 11.6% of the Catholics).
An Ongoing Crisis of Vocations
From 116,843 seminarians in 2015, the number dropped to 116,160 in 2016 (-0.6%). From a territorial point of view, contrary to popular belief, America (especially South) is the continent with the lowest rate of vocations compared to the Catholic population (5.13 seminarians for 100,000 faithful); Europe is close behind with a quotient of 6.17.
This downward tendency in the numbers of candidates to the priesthood throughout the world remains worrisome for the future and reveals the impact of the secularization of society on young people, who are less ready to offer their lives to the Church and consecrate themselves to God.
The post-conciliar era, by putting aside all transcendency in the liturgy and neglecting the catechism, has done more to encourage this movement of general indifference than to counter it.
Among all the experiments being tried today to touch young people and inspire vocations, would not that of a Tradition free from any shackles be worth trying at last?