Catholic Church grows to 1.39 billion people worldwide

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The number of Catholics worldwide grew to 1.39 billion in 2022. This was an increase of one percent compared to 2021, according to the new annual Church statistics published by the Vatican.

The number of members grew primarily in Africa, which rose by three percent to 273 million people. This means that in 2022, around one in five Catholics came from Africa. In Europe, the number remained the same at 286 million. There was an increase of 0.9 and 0.6 percent on the continents of America and Asia.

In contrast to the increase in Catholics, priests continued to fall minimally. It fell by 0.03 percent to 407,730. This continued with a slight downward trend since 2012. The total number includes both diocesan and religious priests.

Priests: sharpest decline in Europe
At 1.7 percent, the sharpest decline was in Europe, where there are still the most priests in absolute terms. Conversely, in Africa, the number of priests grew by 3.2 percent, and in Asia, by 1.6 percent. In North and Latin America, there were roughly the same number of priests in 2022 as in 2021.

Seminaries reported a global decline: 108,481 men were trained as priests in 2022. This was 1.3 percent fewer than in 2021, with Europe lagging far behind at minus six percent again. On the other hand, the number rose to 34,541, making Africa the continent with the most candidates for the priesthood: Worldwide, almost one in three attended a seminary in Africa.

The number of religious women continued to fall in 2022
The number of religious women continued to fall in 2022 by 1.6 percent to 599,228. Once again, there were differences between Africa, which recorded 1.7 percent more religious, and Europe, where 3.5 percent fewer women were living according to religious vows. There were also declines in South and Central America (minus 2.5 percent), North America (minus 3.0 percent), and Oceania (minus 3.6 percent). In Southeast Asia, female religious people increased slightly by 0.1 percent.

More deacons
There were 49,414 religious brothers worldwide, i.e., male members of religious orders without priestly ordination, 360 fewer than in the previous year. It should also be noted here that the number rose significantly in Asia, while there was a decline in Europe, for example. In contrast, permanent deacons continued to rise on all continents—by around two percent to 50,150 worldwide.

The 2022 Yearbook, compiled by the Central Office for Church Statistics, contains updated data on the Catholic Church worldwide. It is published by the Vatican publishing house “LEV” and has been available in bookshops since Thursday.

  • hector pascua with reports from religion.ORF.at/KAP/picture: Bild von Bernd Marx auf Pixabay

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