VATICAN CITY (AsiaNews) – The number of Catholics in the 2979 ecclesiastical jurisdictions around the world is up – as is the number of bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians. However, the number of women religious has decreased.
This is derived from data presented in the 2011 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, presented Monday morning to Pope Francis, together with the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook, which also refers to 2012 and included records for the election of the pope.
Asia remains a religiously vibrant continent: the number of faithful and priests is up as is the number of professed religious who are not priests, seminarians, and in contrast to the world’s data, also the number of nuns.
The number of Catholics worldwide rose from 1196 in 2010 to 1214 million in 2011, an increase of 1.5% and since this growth is only slightly higher than that of the Earth’s population (1.23%), the presence of Catholics in the world remains essentially unchanged (17.5%).
Territorial analysis of changes in this period, show an increase of 4.3% of Catholics in Africa, which saw a population increase of 2.3%. Asia also registered an increase in the number of Catholics that was higher than that of the population (2.0% versus 1.2%).
The growth in the number of Catholics in America and Europe remained stable, in line with population growth (0.3%). In 2011, the total number of baptized Catholics distributed across the continents is: 16.0% in Africa, 48.8% in the Americas, 10.9% in Asia, 23.5% in Europe and 0.8% in Oceania.
The number of bishops in the world increased, from 2010 to 2011, from 5,104 to 5,132, with a relative increase of 0.55%. The increase particularly involved, Oceania (4.6%) and Africa (+1.0%), while Asia and Europe are slightly above the global average. America did not register any changes.
Given these different dynamics, however, the distribution of Bishops across the various continents remained largely stable over the last two year period under consideration, with America and Europe alone, continuing to represent nearly 70 percent of the total.
Globally, the presence of the diocesan and religious priests has increased over time, growing in the last decade from 405,067 units as of December 31, 2001, to 413,418 as of December 31, 2011 (+2.1%). This evolution was not, however, uniform in different geographical areas.
The dynamics of the number of priests in Africa and Asia is encouraging , with a +39.5% and +32.0% respectively (and with an increase of over 3,000 units, for the two continents, in 2011 alone), while America remains stationary around an average of 122 thousand units. Europe, in contrast to the global average, has seen a decrease of more than 9% in the past decade.
Permanent deacons are booming, both globally and in individual continents, passing from a total of more than 29,000 in 2001 to about 41,000 units a decade later, with a variation of more than 40%. Europe and America registered both the most numerically significant and vibrant trend.
In fact, the European deacons, little more than 9,000 units in 2001, were almost 14,000 in 2011, an increase of over 43%. In America the number grew from 19,100 units in 2001 to more than 26,000 in 2011. These two continents, alone, account for 97.4% of the global total, with the remaining 2.6% split between Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The group of professed religious who are not priests has continued to firmly establish itself over the last decade, registering just over 55,000 units in 2011. In Africa and Asia there are variations of +18.5% and +44.9%, respectively.
In 2011 these two continents together counted for over 36% of the total (compared to less than 28% in 2001). In contrast, the numbers registered in Europe (-18%), America (-3.6%) and Oceania (-21.9%) dropped by almost 8 percentage points over the last decade.
A strong downward trend was observed in data for the professed [women] religious, with a decrease of 10% from 2001 to 2011. The total number of professed religious, that counted than 792 thousand units in 2001 is now at just over 713 thousand 10 years later. The decline particularly affects three continents (Europe, America and Oceania), with significant variations (-22% in Europe, -21% in Oceania and -17% in America).
In Africa and Asia, however, there has been a sustained increase, more than 28% in the first continent and 18% in the second. Consequently, the fraction of professed religious in Africa and Asia out of the global total increased from 24.4% to about 33%, at the expense of Europe and America, whose dropped respectively by a total of 74% to 66%.
Candidates for diocesan and religious priesthood globally went from 112,244 in 2001 to 120,616 in 2011, an increase of 7.5%. The evolution was very different in the various continents. While, Africa (+30.9%) and Asia (+29.4%) showed a lively growth, Europe and America recorded a decline of 21.7% and of 1.9%; respectively.
As a result, we observe a reduction in the contribution of the European continent to the growth potential of the renewal of priestly life, with a quota that has passed from 23.1% to 16.8%, compared with an expansion of the African and Asian continents.