Vatican: the Catholic Church in Numbers

The Annuario Pontificio 2021, and the ‘Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2019’, edited by the Central Statistics Office of the Catholic Church have been just published. 

The Annuario Pontificio reveals several new aspects of the life of the Church in the world in 2020. During this time period two metropolitan Sees and four episcopal Sees (2 dioceses and 2 eparchies) were erected, two dioceses were elevated to the level of metropolitan Sees, and two territorial prelatures and one apostolic vicariate were elevated to dioceses.

According to the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, which gathered data referring to 2019 from the world’s 3,026 ecclesiastic circumscriptions, in 2019 there were just under 1,345 million Catholics, compared to some 1,329 million in 2018, an absolute increase of 16 million or 1.12%. Because this relative growth is close to that of the world’s population (1.08%), the presence of baptized Catholics in the world remains essentially stable around 17.7%.

Africa registered a 3.4% increase in the number of Catholics and a population growth of just under 2.7%. Asia and America also showed an overall increase in Catholics in relation to population growth, (1.3% against 0.9% in Asia and 0.84% against 0.69% in America). 

In Europe, where the population remains almost stationary, there was a slight decrease in     Catholics. Meanwhile in Oceania, for the same time period, there was a similar increase in the number of Catholics and in population growth, 1.1%.

At the end of 2019, there were 5,364 Bishops worldwide, a slight decrease of 13 compared to the previous year. In North and Central America there was a decrease of 13 and 5 bishops respectively, compared to an increase in the rest of the American continent of 7 bishops, an increase of 5 bishops in Africa and 2 in Southeast Asia. 

The number of bishops remains stable in Europe at 1,687. The overall distribution of bishops worldwide remains the same with America and Europe accounting for 68.8% of the total number, followed by Asia at 15.2%, Africa at 13.4% and Oceania at 2.6%.

Between 2018 and 2019 the number of priests worldwide, both diocesan and religious, increased   from 414,065 to 414,336 with an increase of 3.45% in Africa and 2.91% in Asia compared with a decrease of 1.5% in Europe and America. Africa and Asia account for 28.9% of all priests compared to 28.0% in 2018, Oceania remains relatively stable at just above 1.1%. 

Meanwhile Europe experienced marked decrease in number of priests, from 170,936 priests representing almost 41.3% of all priests in 2018, to 40.6 percent in 2019. The number of    permanent deacons continues to show significant and encouraging growth with an increase of 1.5% compared to the previous year, up from 47,504 to 48,238 worldwide.

The number of deacons increased by 1.2% in America and Europe, where 97% of all deacons reside, and also in areas where they are not quantitatively relevant such as in Oceania where the number   increased to 481 deacons, a growth of 1.1%.

The number of professed men religious (not priests) experienced an overall global decrease from 50,941 in 2018 to 50,295 in 2019. The decrease can be accounted for by decreases in Europe, America and Oceania. Despite the decrease from 14,038 to13,735, Europe and America continue to have the greatest number of professed men religious.

The number of women religious decreased by 1.8% globally from 641,661 in 2018 to 630,099 in   2019. Africa experienced the greatest increase at 1.1% from 76,219 to 77,054 in 2019, followed by Southeast Asia with an 0.4% increase, from 170,092 to 170,754.

Meanwhile the presence of women religious in America, Europe and Oceania experienced an overall drop. In America from 160,032 to 154,717, in Europe from 224,246 to 216,846 and in Oceania from 6,999 to 6,718. Priestly vocations continued their downward trend from 115,880 in 2018 to 114,058 in 2019, an overall 1.6% decrease.  

In America there was a 2.4% decrease, in Europe, a 3.8% decrease, in Asia 2.6% and in Oceania a 5.2% decrease. By contrast in Africa the number of major seminarians increased from 32,212 to 32,721. Asia accounts for the greatest number of seminarians in 2019 with 33,821, followed by Africa, America with 30,664, Europe with 15,888 and Oceania with 964 seminarians.

The overall distribution of candidates to the priesthood has thus significantly changed in the two-year period with Africa accounting for 28.7% (27.8 % in 2018) and Europe accounting for 13.9% (compared to 14.3% in 2018).