Church Statistics Sketch the New Face of the Church in the 21st Century

November 17, 2019

Agenzia Fides has just published the 2019 edition of the statistics of the Catholic Church. While the number of Catholics has increased in absolute value, their proportion globally remains stable compared to the previous year. Catholics represents 17.73% of the world’s population.

It is traditionally on mission Sunday that the pontifical news agency divulges the yearly updating of the statistics of the Catholic Church. This year, it was on the 20th of October that Fides presented the most accurate updated panorama possible of Catholicism in the world.

Given the breadth of the data to be processed and the thoroughness of the survey, the figures published each year reflect the situation as it was about twenty-four months ago.

Thus, as of December 31, 2017, the world population stood at 7,408,374,000 people, an increase of 56,085,000 compared to the previous year. The largest increases are in Africa (+33,572,000) and Asia (+11,975,000), followed by the Americas (+8,738,000), Europe (+1,059,000) and Oceania (+741,000).

As of the same date, the number of Catholics amounted to 1,313,278,000 faithful, an increase of 14,219,000 compared to 2016.

In absolute terms, all continents benefited from an increase in the number of faithful, including Europe (285 million, +259,000). These figures are to be qualified with regard to the evolution of the world population. In proportion, the percentage of Catholics increased by 0.06% compared to the previous year. At the end of 2017, Catholics represent 17.73% of the world's population.

The number of Catholics per priest—which highlights, in contrast, the lack of priestly vocations—has increased again this year, except in Asia and Africa. For the total number of priests in the world has decreased again this year, reaching the figure of 414,582 (- 387). Europe is still the continent most affected by the decline in the numbers of priests (- 2.946), joined this year by Oceania (- 97). The increases are in Africa (+ 1,192), the Americas (+ 40) and Asia (+ 1,424).

The published figures allow drawing the contours of the face of the Church of tomorrow: the vitality of Catholicism in Asia (145 million, + 2 million) and in Africa (234 million, + 5.6 million), while the heart of the Church remains in the Americas. Half of Catholics live in the New World: 637 million faithful, up 6 million.