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Vatican statistics: Church growth remains steady worldwide

By on Monday, 5 May 2014

In 2012 there were 16.4 million baptisms, according to new figures (Photo: CNS)

In 2012 there were 16.4 million baptisms, according to new figures (Photo: CNS)

The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests, permanent deacons and religious men all increased in 2012, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics.

The number of candidates for the priesthood also showed its first global downturn in recent years.

The statistics come from a recently published Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reported worldwide Church figures as of December 31, 2012.

By the end of 2012, the worldwide Catholic population had reached 1.228 billion, an increase of 14 million or 1.14 per cent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate, which, as of 2013, was estimated at 1.09 per cent.

Catholics as a percentage of the global population remained essentially unchanged from the previous year at around 17.5 per cent.

The latest Vatican statistical yearbook estimated that there were about 4.8 million Catholics that were not included in its survey because they were in countries that could not provide an accurate report to the Vatican, mainly China and North Korea.

According to the yearbook, the percentage of Catholics as part of the general population is highest in the Americas where they make up 63.2 per cent of the continent’s population. Asia has the lowest proportion, with 3.2 per cent.

During the 2012 calendar year, there were 16.4 million baptisms of both infants and adults, according to the statistical yearbook.

It said the number of bishops of the world stayed essentially the same at 5,133.

The total number of priests – diocesan and religious – around the world grew from 413,418 to 414,313, with a modest increase in Africa, a larger rise in Asia, and slight decreases in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Asia saw a 13.7 per cent growth in the number of priests between 2007 and the end of 2012.

The number of permanent deacons reported – 42,104 – was an increase of more than 1,100 over the previous year and a 17 per cent increase since 2007. The vast majority – more than 97 per cent – of the world’s permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe.

The number of religious brothers showed 0.4 per cent growth worldwide. The number of religious brothers totalled 55,314 at the end of 2012. Slight growth was seen everywhere except the Americas.

The number of women in religious orders continued its downward trend. The total of 702, 529 temporarily and permanently professed sisters and nuns in 2012 was a 1.5 per cent decrease from the previous year and a 5.9 per cent fall since 2007.

The number of candidates for the priesthood – both diocesan seminarians and members of religious orders – who had reached the level of philosophy and theology studies showed its first downturn since 2003. The number of candidates dropped slightly to 120,051 men at the end of 2012 as compared to 120,616 at end of 2011. Increases were reported in the traditionally vocations-rich continents of Africa and Asia, although the increases were modest; Africa reported 245 more candidates than in 2011 and Asia reported 179 more men in their final years of study for ordination.