The Statistical Vatican Yearbook of the Church shows that the number of baptized Catholics worldwide has risen significantly. Catholics in the world continue to increase in number by the millions, according to the latest official statistics from the Catholic Church.
The standout figure of baptized Catholics reached 1.27 billion or 17.8 percent, an increase of 157 million, the report reported on March 5. This means the Church is growing at a reasonably faster rate than that of the world’s population on every continent apart from Oceania.
The figures are presented in the Annuario Pontificio 2016, the Vatican yearbook, and will appear in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which gives detailed figures on the Church’s workforce, sacramental life, dioceses and parishes as of December 31, 2014.
While the total number of priests worldwide has increased, the number of priests has decreased slightly in Europe and Oceania, according to the Vatican’s Central Office for Church Statistics.
The growth of the Catholic population has been uneven, with a small growth in Europe.The number of infant baptisms in Europe has dropped to 2 million from 3.6 million in 1980. Sacramental marriages have gone from 1.5 million in 1980 to 650,540 in 2012, the report said.
However, with the exception of Oceania, the number of baptized Catholics has grown faster than the general population growth on every continent.
The situation, however is different in Africa, with Catholics almost tripled: in 1978 there were around 55 million and by 2004 had risen to almost 149 million. This growth reflects a real increase in the presence of baptized believers: in fact, Catholics, who made up 12.4% of the population of Africa in 1978, represented almost 17 % twenty-six years later. Globally, Africa is undoubtedly the continent where growth is most notable, this probably helps explain the fresh outbreaks of violence against Christians and Catholics by Islamic extremist groups.
The average percentage of an African country’s Catholics saying they attend Mass every week was 76 percent in the 1990s, 64 percent in the 2000s, and 70 percent since 2010, but it can vary tremendously by country. In Nigeria, weekly Mass attendance in 2011 was estimated to be 92 percent.
The number of bishops in the world increased between 1978 and 2004 by more than 28%, going from 3,714 to 4,784, with a very marked growth in Africa (+ 45.8%), in Oceania (+ 34%) and in Asia (+ 31.4%), while in America (+ 27.2%) and in Europe (+ 23.3%) reaching 5,237 worldwide compared to 4,841 a year earlier.
Increase in the total number of priests — diocesan and religious order — around the world was stable – 415,792, showing growth over the last decade, while numbers in North America, Europe and Oceania has rather been disappointing.
The number of permanent deacons reported — 44,566 — was an increase of more than 1,000 over the previous year.
Unlike the figures relating to priests, the religious institute “sector", number of religious brothers seem to be decreasing quite significantly. The number of nuns throughout the world has also decreased dramatically, dropping by 10,846 in 2014.The biggest decreases were seen in North and South America, Europe and Oceania while numbers in Africa and Asia continue to rise.
Meanwhile there has been a strong decrease in the number of seminarians, both diocesan seminarians and members of religious orders – the number of candidates fell to 116,939 men at the end of 2014 compared to 118,251 men at the end of 2013, the study added.
“Arguably, the three most important indicators of ‘vitality’ for the Catholic Church are the number of Catholics, the number of parishes and the number of priests.” The number of men training to be priests has shown strong growth in Africa and Asia with a substantial decline in Europe and North America, the study said.