Figures on Church life are out:

Faithful are growing fastest in Africa.

This year’s Pontifical Yearbook has published the figures relating to the life of the Catholic Church around the world, in the first year of Francis’ pontificate. Asia ranks first in terms of the rise in seminarian numbers (, Marco Tosatti)

vitamissioneThe Pontifical Yearbook has published all figures relating to Church life around the world. The volume is published annually and collects together data from the Holy See’s central offices. This year’s figures are of particular interest because they refer to the first year of Francis’ pontificate. He was elected Pope on 13 March 2013. The figures relating to the “official” life of the Church – the legal-institutional aspect that is – include the period that runs from March last year to 22 February 2014. Two new episcopal sees, an eparchy, an apostolic exarchate and an archiepiscopal exarchate were established in this period and a territorial prelature was elevated to the status of diocese.

The data regarding faithful and other members of the Church refer to 2012, so there is a two year gap between that date and the date of publication. The Catholic Church is currently divided into 2981 ecclesiastical districts, dioceses or other kinds of institutions. The number of people who are being baptized is constantly growing. In the period between 2005 and 2012, the number of baptized people around the world rose from 1115 to 1229 million, an increase of 10, 2%.

If we compare this to the world population’s rate of growth in the same period, we see that this has gone from 6, 46 to 7, 02 billion. So Catholic presence in the world has risen slightly, from 17, 3% to 17, 5%. But this growth varied greatly according to geographical area and so the total figure is different.

Europe’s results are the worst. Although it is home to 23% of the world’s Catholic community (2012), it is by far the least dynamic area, with numbers of baptized rising at a meagre rate of just over 2%. The presence of Catholics in the region amounts to about 40%.

Africa is the continent that is witnessing the greatest growth; this probably helps explain the fresh outbreaks of violence against Christians and Catholics by Islamic extremist groups. Globally, Africa is undoubtedly the continent where growth is most notable. The rate at which the number of Africa’s Catholics (almost 199 million in 2012) has risen, is almost double that of Asia (29%) and far higher than the population growth rate in that same period of time.

The balance between continents has changed hugely. The Catholic presence in Africa is stronger (the number of African Catholics has risen from 13, 8% in 2005 to 16, 2% of the total number of the world’s Catholics in 2012). Europe’s Catholics, however, continue to drop in number: from 25, 5% in 2005 their number has fallen to 23, 3% in 2012.

But Asia’s Catholics are also on the rise. Asia accounts for over 60%of the world population and Asian Catholics account for about 11% of the population. 49% of the world’s baptized Catholic population is American, a relative majority. The number of Catholics per a hundred inhabitants in Oceania is stable, accounting for 0, 8% of the global catholic population.

As was to be expected, the constant growth in terms of Church members has impacted on the number of working “pastors” although the increase is lesser than the figure relating to the number of faithful in percentage terms. Between 2005 and 2012 the number of bishops in the world increased from 4841 to 5133, with an increase of 292 prelates, equal to 6%. All continents experienced an increase which in percentage terms was close to America and Oceania’s global average. Europe’s figures were once again lower than those of the other continents. Europe recorded the lowest increase in percentage terms (3, 3%), while Africa and Asia recorded the highest increase (11%). As a result, the presence of American and Oceanian bishops did not change in the period under examination, whereas that of European bishops fell by about one percentage point, placing Africa and Asia in a more favourable position.

There has also been a growth in presbyter numbers but this varies from group to group: in 2012 there were 414,313 priests in the world. 279, 561 of these were members of the diocesan clergy and 134,752 were members of clergy who belonged to religious orders. In 2005, the total was 406,411, 269,762 of whom were diocesan clergy and 136,649 who were members of religious orders. The total number of priests in 2012 rose by 2% compared to 2005. This was the result of a 3, 6% increase in the diocesan clergy and a 1,4% drop in the number of members of religious orders. This drop will have been down to an ageing clergy and possibly a lack of dynamism in some religious orders which were once blossoming. The highest increase was seen in Africa (24% and in Asia (20%), followed by America (1, 6%) and Oceania (0,2%). Yet again, Europe was the continent that witnessed a decrease: European priest numbers have fallen (6%).

The number of clergy belonging to religious orders has dropped everywhere except Asia and Africa. Across all continents, members of the clergy are prevalently European priests (45% in 2012). That is 52% more than American priests (122,924 against 186,489); Asia’s clergy accounts for 14, 5% of the world’s clergy, Africa’s for 9, 7% and Oceania’s for 1, 1%. America and Oceania’s clergy did not affect the global total between 2005 and 2012, whereas the percentage of African clergy grew from 8% in 2005 to 9, 7% in 2012 and Asia’s from 12, 3% to 14, 5%. Europe’s clergy in the meantime fell from 48, 8% to 45%.

Permanent deacons are the category of pastoral workers who have experienced the strongest evolution through time: their number jumped from 33,391 in 2005 to 42,000 in 2012, with a relative variation of more than 26, 1%. Although there was a global increase, increase rates varied between continents: in Europe there was a significant increase, from just under 11,000 to almost 14,000 in seven years. American also saw an increase, from 21,722 in 2005 to over 27,000 in 2012. It is important to note that this religious figure is frequently found across America (particularly in the north), with 64, 7% of the world’s deacons. It is also widespread in Europe (32, 8%). In Africa and Asia this figure is rare: both of these continents combined account for 1, 5% of the world’s deacons.

Unlike the figures relating to priests, the religious institute “sector” there seems to be a greater vitality among men and women in religious orders who are not ordained. This group has seen a slight increase. In 2005 they accounted for 54,708, while in 2012 this rose to 55,314. Numbers have dropped significantly in Europe (10, 2%), Oceania (7%) and America (3, 1%). In Asia and Africa the number of men and women in religious orders who are not ordained has increased (27, 5% and 8,8% respectively). In 2012, the number of men and women in religious orders who are not ordained was higher in these two continents than it was – percentage-wise – in America. Europe still has the highest number (31, 8%) but it is decreasing quite significantly.

The number of nuns throughout the world has also decreased dramatically. In 2012, the total number of professed women religious was 702,529. Europe is home to most of these (38%), followed by America (over 186,000 consecrated women religious) and Asia (almost 170,000). This group experienced a 7, 6% decrease in numbers compared to 2005. The decrease affected three continents (Europe, America and Oceania), with significant variations (around 15%). In Africa and Asia, on the other hand, their numbers continue to increase (16, 7% and 10, 5% respectively). This altered the balance between the continents. The percentage of professed women religious in Africa and Asia rose from 27, 9% to 33, 9%, whereas Europe and America saw a drop, from 70, 8% to 64, 9%.

Meanwhile, there has been a strong rise in the number of seminarians (a 4, 9% rise), from 114,439 in 2005 to 120,051 in 2012. Asia saw the strongest increase, with an 18% increase in numbers in the period examined. Africa follows, with a 17, 6% increase, followed by Oceania, with a 14,2% increase. In Europe, the number of seminarians has decreased by 13, 2%, while in America, the decrease was not quite as strong (2, 8%). In 2012, out of 1000 candidates for the priesthood, 299 were American, 296 Asian, 231 African, 166 European and 8 Oceanian.