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Global Catholic population grows for third consecutive year

By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 October, 2018

Europe was the only continent to see a drop in its Catholic population, down by 240,000.

The number of Catholics globally has increased for the third consecutive year.

Ahead of World Mission Day today, Fides published its annual Church statistics showing an increase of more than 14.2 million to 1.29 billion.

Every continent except Europe saw an increase in Catholic population, with Africa registering an increase of 6,265,000, the Americas increasing by 6,023,000, followed by Asia by 1,956,000 and Oceania by 254,000.

However, Europe reported a drop of 240,000 Catholics.

Despite the increase in number, the world percentage of Catholics decreased by 0.05% to 17.67%.

The number of lay missionaries in the world also increased by 2,946 to 354,743. The increase of 4,728 lay missionaries in America and 759 in Africa was offset by a drop of 1,569 lay missionaries in Asia, 921 in Europe and 55 in Oceania.

Catholic catechists in the world decreased by 36,364 to a total of 3,086,289, though an increase was registered in Africa by 10,669. But every other continent registered a decrease in catechists: America by 20,407, Asia 12,896, Europe 13,417 and Oceania 313.

The total number of priests decreased by 687 globally to 414,969. The only continent which registered a major decrease was Europe, where the number dropped by 2,583. There was also a decrease in America, down by 589.

Increases were registered in Africa, up 1,181 and Asia 1,304 while Oceania was unchanged.

Diocesan priests increased by 317, reaching a total of 281,831 with a decrease only in Europe by 1,611 and increases in Africa by 983; America 180, Asia 744 and Oceania 21.

The number of religious priests decreased by 1,004 to a total of 133,138. Increases were registered in Africa where they were up by 198 and in Asia where the increase totalled 560, whereas numbers dropped in America by 769, Europe by 972 and Oceania by 21.

The number of permanent deacons in the Church increased globally by 1,057 to 46,312. The highest increase was registered again in America where the number was up by 842, followed by Europe by 145, Oceania at 45, Africa by 22 and Asia by 3.

The number of permanent diocesan deacons in the world rose to 45,609, an overall increase of 982. They increased on every continent except in Asia where they fell by 38. Africa saw the number increase by 36, America by 807, Europe by 130 and Oceania by 47.

There was an overall decrease in the number of women religious by 10,885 down to 659,445. An increase was registered in Africa by 943 and Asia by 533, however there was a decrease in America by 3,775, Europe by 8,370 and Oceania by 216.

In the field of Catholic education, the Church runs 72,826 kindergartens with 7.31 million pupils; 96,573 primary schools with 35.12 million pupils; 47,862 and secondary schools with 19.95 million pupils.

The Church also cares for 2.50 million high school pupils, and 3.04 million university students.

Charity and healthcare centres run in the world by the Church include 5,287 hospitals, most of them in America (1,530) and Africa (1,321); 15,937 dispensaries, mainly in Africa (5,177); America (4,430) and Asia (3,300); 610 care homes for people with leprosy, mainly in Asia (352) and Africa (192).

The Church also runs 15,722 homes for the elderly, chronically ill or people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8,127) and America (3,763); 9,552 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3,660); 11,758 creches, mainly in Asia (3,295) and America (3,191); 13,897 marriage counselling centres, mainly in Europe (5,664) and America (4,984); 3,506 social rehabilitation centres and 35,746 other kinds of institutions.

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