New Statistics Reveal Growth in Catholics Worldwide to 1.36 Billion People an Increase of 1.2%

Catholics are growing in the world, in 2020 there are 1,360 Billion

Vatican News Italian reported that the Central Statistical Office of the Church, the data contained in the Annuario Pontificio and in the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclessiae reveal that in 2020 baptized Catholics recorded an increase of 1.2 with a significant increase in Asia and Africa.

The number of bishops in the world is slightly decreasing, a decline also for the number of priests. On the other hand, permanent deacons are on the rise.

Some news relating to the life of the Catholic Church in the world can be inferred, starting from 2021, in the Pontifical Yearbook 2022 and in the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2020, whose editing was handled by the Central Statistical Office of the Church, in these days. distributed in bookstores, published by the Vatican Printing House. During this period, 1 Metropolitan See and 2 Episcopal See were erected. The Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, referring to the year 2020, provides a dimension of the main numerical dynamics of the Catholic Church in different countries and individual continents. Below is information on some basic aspects of the Catholic Church in the two-year period 2019-2020.

Baptized Catholics in the world go from 1,344 billion in 2019 to 1,360 billion in 2020, with an absolute increase of 16 million, equal to about + 1.2%. 

Comparing these data with the evolution of the world population, which in the same period went from 7,578 to 7,667 billion, it is observed that the incidence of Catholics on the world population is equal, in both years, to 17.7%. If at the level of the entire planet, therefore, the relative presence of Catholics does not change, the reality in the various continents is revealed quite differently: in some the relative increases in Catholics between 2019 and 2020 are significant, in others, much more contents. Partly in Asia there is an important increase of + 1.8% (especially in the South-East area, and despite the decline that occurred in the Middle East area) and in Africa at the maximum: + 2.1% ; at the other extreme, in Europe, there was an increase of just 0.3%.

Looking at the number of Catholics in the various continental areas on the world total, the trend towards an increase in the weight of Africa is confirmed (whose Catholics rise from 18.7% in 2019 to 18.9% in 2020 of the world ones), and on the other hand, the drop in the European one, for which the percentage of the world total drops in 2020, from 21.2% in 2019, by almost a fifth of a percentage point. In 2020, America remains the continent to which 48% of the world's Catholics belong. Of these, almost 28% are present in South America. Finally, the incidence in the Catholic world of the Asian continent appears to be moderately increasing, which, with a weight of 59% of the world population, remains around 11%. with regards to Catholics. The incidence of Catholics baptized in Oceania on the world total remains stable, albeit with a consistency that reaches 0.8%.

The number of bishops in the world is slightly decreasing between 2019 and 2020, going from 5,364 to 5,363 units. This situation affects almost all continents with the exception of the American continent where the number of bishops increases by 16 units. It should also be noted that the relative weight of each continent remains stationary over the two-year period with a greater concentration on the total in America and Europe. In Africa, the share of Bishops on the world total is 13.4% in the two years.

At the end of 2020, 410,219 priests, both diocesan and religious, were present in all ecclesiastical circumscriptions of the Catholic world, with a decrease of 4,117 units compared to a year earlier. The comparison with 2019 shows, as regards the territorial distribution, that in North America and Europe there is a decrease, respectively of 1,114 and 4,374 units; the decline in North America is also offset by a decline in the rest of the American continent of 307 units; in Oceania the decrease in the two-year period was 104 units. Significant increases, on the other hand, were recorded in Africa (+1.004 units) and Asia (+778). The changes that occurred in relative terms between 2019 and 2020 are all significant. This confirms, however, that the largest presence is in Europe and America (where 40 and 29.3 percent of the world's priests live respectively by 2020), followed at a long distance by Asia (17.3% ), from Africa (12.3%) and from Oceania (1.1%).

With reference to the weight of the various continents of priests, in the past two years, it should be noted that Europe, while holding the highest share, has seen a decrease in the number of priests out of the world total: in 2019 the over 168 thousand priests represented just under 41% of the total of the ecclesiastical group, while a year later they drop, as already noted, to a share of 40%. Africa and Asia, on the other hand, are gaining ground by conquering, overall a percentage of almost 30% of the world total, from 28.9% in 2019. America reaches a fraction of 29.3% in 2020, with a slight decrease in its own percentage, while Oceania remains relatively stable around a share of just over 1%.

An examination of the relationship between the number of priests and that of Catholics clearly shows an imbalance between the supply and demand for pastoral services. The pastoral load on a global level, due to the differential in demographic growth between the various territorial areas, increases over the course of the two-year period, going from 3,245 Catholics per priest in 2019 to 3,314 in 2020. The dimension of the relationship, however, appears not a little different from continent to continent. In 2020, compared to 1,746 Catholics who gravitate on average to every priest in Europe, in Africa there are 5,089 and in America 2,086 and these values ​​give account of the different structure of relations between priests and Catholics, in the various territorial areas.

 Permanent deacons constitute the group in the strongest evolution over time: from 48,238 units in 2019 to 48,635 units in 2020, with a relative increase of almost 1%. The rates of variation, however, remain different between the various continental areas. They are growing in the American continent where the dynamic is sustained: in 2019 this continent had 31,668 units, while in 2020 the number rises to 32,226 units. There was a slight decrease in Europe where their number increased in the two-year period from 15,267 to 15,170 units. In Africa, Asia and Oceania where deacons do not yet reach 2.5% of the total overall, they decrease by almost 5%, reaching 1,239 units in 2020. There are no significant variations in the territorial distribution of deacons, during the period examined: there is only a slight increase in the relative number of deacons in America and a decrease in that of Europe.

A significant numerical variation is that recorded by professed religious who are not priests. In 2019 they were 50,295 units in the world and then reached 50,569 units in 2020. It should be noted that the increase is concentrated in Africa (+ 1.1%), Asia (+ 2.8%) and Europe (+ 4%). On the contrary, these operators decreased, in the two years, in America (-4%) and in Oceania (-6%). In 2020, the incidence of non-priest religious from Africa and Asia reaches, overall, the share of 43% of the world total, starting from an incidence of 42% in 2019. Europe continues to maintain a consistent relative incidence (+ 28.6%), but in clear growth. The group made up of America and Oceania fell by almost one and a half points compared to the previous year.

The world of professed religious shows a strongly decreasing dynamic. Globally, they go from 630,099 in 2019 to 619,546 in 2020, with a relative change of -1.7%. In evolutionary terms, professed religious increase in the most dynamic continents, Africa (+ 3.2%) and Asia (+ 0.2%), compared to a contraction in Europe (-4.1%), America (-2 , 8%) and Oceania (-5.7%). Consequently, if in 2019 the professed religious present in Europe and America amounted to almost 59% of the world total, they account for less than 58% in 2020.

Candidates for the priesthood have passed on the planet from 114,058 in 2019 to 111,855 in 2020. The trend of major seminarians observed in the world total, between 2019 and 2020, affects all continents, with the exception of Africa , where seminarians increased by 2.8% (from 32,721 to 33,628 units). In Europe, America and Asia, but especially in the first continent, the decreases are significant (-4.3% in Europe, -4.2% in America and -3.5% in Asia). The percentage distribution of seminarians by continent highlights, in the two-year period, slight changes, Africa and Asia contributed 58.3% of the world total in 2019; in 2020 their share rises to 59.3%. Aside from the slight negative adjustment in Oceania, America and Europe as a whole see their share decrease: in 2019 the 46,552 American and European seminarians represented almost 41% of the total, while a year later they fell to 39. 9%.