Catholic Church census reveals growth in Asia and Africa, decline in Europe

The St. Peter's Square before the St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Obelisk. | Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

An annual census by the Vatican news agency, Fides, shows that the number of Catholics has increased in Africa, the Americas and Asia but gone down in Europe.

The list of Catholic Church Statistics, released Thursday, reveals that the number of Catholics grew by more than 15 million from 2018 to 2019. However, in Europe, the number of Catholics decreased by 292,000. The release of the statistics came ahead of World Mission Day, which took place Sunday.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, the world population was approximately 7.6 billion with an increase of 81.4 million compared to the previous year. The population grew on every continent, including Europe, the census notes.

Catholics in the world numbered 1.3 billion with an overall increase of 15.4 million, as of Dec. 31, 2019, compared to the previous year. A video presentation of the statistics notes that Catholics accounted for 17.7% of the world population in 2019.

In Africa, the number of Catholics increased by 8.3 million, by 5.3 million in America, by 1.9 million in Asia and by 118,000 in Oceania. Catholics comprised 19.4% of the population in Africa, 63.8% of the population in America, 3.3% of the population in Asia and 26.3% of the population in Oceania. 

As the number of Catholics increased worldwide, the total number of bishops in the world decreased by 13 to 5,364, according to the census. The report also shows that the number of priests worldwide increased, mainly in Africa and Asia, by 271 to 414,336.

The census put the number of lay missionaries in the world at 410,440, with an overall increase of 34,252.

“In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 72,667 kindergartens with 7,532,992 pupils; 98,925 primary schools with 35,188,771 pupils; 49,552 secondary schools with 19,370,763 pupils. The Church also cares 2,395,540 high school pupils and 3,833,012 university students,” the census says. “Charity and healthcare centres run in the world by the Church include: 5,245 hospitals, most of them in Africa (1,418) and in America (1,362).”

Other charities overseen by the Church include “532 Care Homes for people with Leprosy, mainly in Asia (269) and Africa (201); 15,429 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8,031) and in America (3,642); 9,374 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3,233) and in Europe (2,247); 10,723 creches, mainly in Asia (2,973) and in America (2,957); 12,308 marriage counselling centres, mainly in Europe (5,504) and America (4,289); 3,198 social rehabilitation centres and 33,840 other kinds of institutes.”

Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, responded to the statistics, concluding that “de-Christianization is evident.” “I think it will be necessary to implement courses for Christian formation,” he remarked, according to Premier Christian News.

In a statement issued in honor of World Missions Day, Pope Francis asserted that “The call to mission is not a thing of the past.” He stressed the need for “hearts capable of experiencing vocation as a true love story that urges them to go forth to the peripheries of our world as messengers and agents of compassion.”

Originally published on The Christian Post