ANNUARIUM STATISTICUM ECCLESIAE Published for 2000
L'Osservatore Romano

1. The Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae with Church statistics for 2000 was recently presented to the press. The Central Office for Statistics of the Church compiles it and it is published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

This book gives a picture of the most important data concerning the Catholic Church, enabling one to assess from varied viewpoints the changing characteristics of pastoral activity from 1978 to 2000, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Among other things, the analysis will shed light on the profound territorial differences in the composition per continent that have occurred during the Pontificate of John Paul II.

2. The number of baptized faithful across the world has grown gradually from 757 million in 1978 to 1,045 million in 2000, with an increase of about 38%. Since this increase is lower than the increase in the world population, the relative number of baptized Catholics has diminished, if only slightly: from 18.0 Catholics per 100 inhabitants in 1978, to 17.3 in 2000 (Table 1).

Table 1 - Catholics in 1978,1988 and 2000:
geographical distribution per 100 inhabitants - variations of the population per continent

CONTINENT

Catholic Faithful (Baptized)

In thousands

Per 100 of the total

Per 100 inhabitants

Percent
variation
1978-2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988 

2000

 AFRICA

54,759

81,883

130,018

7.24

9.13

12.44

12.37

13.73

16.47

137.44

 AMERICA

366,614

444,422

519,391

48.46

49.55

49.70

62.22

63.50

62.84

41.67

 ASIA

63,183

84,302

107,301

8.35

9.40

10.27

2.53

2.78

2.90

69.83

 EUROPE

266,361

279,401

280,144

35.21

31.15

26.81

40.53

41.14

39.87

5.17

 OCEANIA

5,616

6,870

8,202

0.74

0.77

0.78

25.30

26.83

26.83

46.05

 WORLD

756,533

896,878

1,045,056

100.00

100.00

100.00

17.99

17.82

17.28

38.14



However, if the world trend over the past 22 years has not substantially changed, the situation on the different continents has. In some, the relative increases between 1978 and 2000 are conspicuous, whilst in others it is more contained. Africa shows the greatest increase (137.4%); Asia (especially in the Middle East) comes next with (69.4%); at the other end of the scale, Europe shows the smallest increase of (5.8%).

Of particular interest to us is the interpretation of the data, continent by continent, on the relative number of Catholics in relation to the population: a quotient that provides the number of faithful per 100 inhabitants. These figures show how baptized Catholics differ radically in the various geographical areas as follows: Catholics number 62.8% of the population of America, 40% in Europe and 2.9% in Asia. It is important to stress that variations within the American area itself are greater: if, in North America the percentage of Catholics is only 24.6%, in central and continental America it is (90.1%) and in South America (86.6%) the number of Catholics is far higher. A diachronic interpretation of the quotients enables us to pick out the different trends in the various geographical areas from 1978 and which vary only slightly. However, if the number of Catholics throughout the world is dwindling slightly in every areawith the exception of Europethe overall trend shows slow growth.

3. In the 22 years from 1978 to 2000 the number of bishops has increased from 3,714 to 4,541, with a relative growth that reaches 22% (Table 2). However, the increases are very different from the geographical viewpoint. If we calculate the average linear increase, we notice the different consistency of the phenomenon in the various parts of the globe: in decreasing order it goes from the maximum value of 1.78% for Africa, to the minimum for Europe of 0.89% (other values: Oceania 1.31%, Asia 0.94%, America 0.90%).

It is therefore clear that Africa and Oceania have registered a reasonable increase in comparison with other areas, but the trends over time can be of more interest than these global figures.

Table 2 - Bishops in 1978,1988 and 2000: 
geographical distribution and numerical variations



CONTINENT

Bishops

 

Percentage
of variation
1978-2000

Number

Per 100 of the total

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

AFRICA

432

487

601

11.63

11.80

13.23

39.12

AMERICA

1,416

1,589

1,695

38.13

38.51

37.33

19.70

ASIA

519

578

627

13.97

14.01

13.81

20.81

EUROPE

1,253

1,365

1,497

33.74

33.08

32.97

19.47

OCEANIA

94

107

121

2.53

2.59

2.66

28.72

WORLD

3,714

4,126

4,541

100.00

100.00

100.00

22.27


The dynamics of the period under examination ensure that in comparison with 1978, the distribution of bishops in the different areas has remained more or less the same. In particular, the whole of America represents 37.3% of all bishops, followed by Europe with 33%, Asia with 13.8%, Africa with 13.2% and Oceania with 2.7%.

It is also interesting to note the number of priests (both diocesan and religious) per bishop, calculated so as to give a rough idea of the balance between these numbers and the individual continental situations. If this ratio has grown throughout the world in the course of time (113.3 priests per bishop in 1978 and 89 priests in 2000), this can be ascribed above all to the sharp decline in Europe (from 199.9 in 1978 to 139 in 2000).

4. A glance at Table 3 enables us to come to certain conclusions on the numerical variation of priests, diocesan and religious, on the different continents as time has passed.

In 2000, priests numbered 405,178, of these 265,781 were diocesan and 139,397 religious, with a decrease of 3.75% in 1978, the result of a decrease of 12.04% among the diocesan clergy and an increase of 1.26% among religious priests. It can also be seen that the incidence of diocesan and religious priests has not significantly changed in time, and in the three years under review, the figures have been very close to 66% for diocesan priests and 34% for religious priests.

Table 3 - Diocesan or religious priests in 1978, 1988, and 2000 per continent and numerical variations



CONTINENT

 

Priests

1978

1988

2000

Percent variation 1978-2000

Diocesan 

Religious

Total

Diocesan Religious Total  Diocesan

Religious

Total Diocesan Religious Total 

AFRICA

5,507

11,419

16,926

9,184

10,085

19,269

16,962

10,203

27,165

208.01

-10.65

60.49

AMERICA

66,084

54,187

120,271

68,414

50,989

119,403

75,121

45,720

120,841

13.68

-15.63

0.47

ASIA

13,863

13,837

27,700

17,789

14,502

32,291

25,716

17,850

43,566

85.50

29.00

57.28

EUROPE

174,175

76,323

250,498

159,033

69,413

228,446

145,268

63,391

208,659

-16.60

-16.94

-16.70

OCEANIA

2,856

2,720

5,576

2,779

2,669

5,448

2,714

2,233

4,947

-4.97

-17.90

-11.28

WORLD

262,485

158,486

420,971

257,199

147,658

404,857

265,781

139,397

405,178

1.26

-12.04

-3.75


Let us start with the latter whose numbers, apart from an exceptional increase such as occurred in Asia, are generally on the decline.

The number of diocesan priests, on the other hand, shows an upward trend: here the areas where they are decreasing are the exception in a general pattern of growth. It is worth pointing out the case of Africa and Asia, where the trend in growth is considerable and steady.

Let us now consider the distribution of diocesan and religious priests per area and the number of Catholics entrusted to the pastoral care of each one.

In view of the 51.5% of the total number of priests who belong to the European region, 30.0% are of the American clergy; then come the other areas with 10.8% for Asia, 6.7% for Africa and 1.2% for Oceania.

Let us look more closely at the trends in time per continent and per category of clergy. In Europe the diocesan priests are gradually decreasing, whereas the decrease in the number of religious priests is slighter. The trends in Africa, Asia, America and Oceania are different: more or less consistent increases can be seen here, in the number both of religious and diocesan priests.

With regard to the number of Catholics per priest, the worldwide trend cannot but increase, because of the differential of demographic growth among the various zones: thus there has been an increase from 1,797 to 2,215 and 2,579 respectively for the years 1978, 1988 and 2000. Again, the geographical differences are remarkable: from a little under 1,700 Catholics per priest in Oceania to 4,298 in America and 4,786 in Africa.

5. Bishops and priests are naturally assisted in their pastoral activity by other people who work with them; we devote the following observations to their analysis.

Meanwhile, to have an idea of the size of the groups, we note that in 2000 diocesan and religious permanent deacons accounted for half of the professed religious who were not priests (55,000 in 2000) and that in turn, the number of these was 14.5 times less than the number of professed women religious (Tables 4, 5 and 6).

Table 4 – Permanent deacons in 1978, 1988, and 2000:
Their geographical distribution and numerical variations

Permanent deacons (diocesan and religious)


CONTINENT

Number

Per 100 of the total

Percentage of variation
1978-2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

AFRICA

91

235

361

1.64

1.50

1.30

296.70

AMERICA

4,239

11,489

18,342

76.21

73.24

65.92

332.70

ASIA

52

81

128

0.93

0.52

0.46

146.15

EUROPE

1,133

3,781

8,813

20.37

24.10

31.67

677.85

OCEANIA

47

100

180

0.85

0.64

0.65

282.98

WORLD

5,562

15,686

27,824

100.00

100.00

100.00

400.25


Permanent deacons make up the group that has developed the most in the period: their numbers overall have quintupled on all the continents with a relative increase of 400.25%. This increase occurred in all the continental areas. In Europe, permanent deacons increased by 678%, in America by 333%, in Africa by 297% and in Oceania by 283%.

Professed religious brothers are a group that is steadily decreasing throughout the world: 75,802 were listed in 1978 and in 2000 there were only 55,057. This decrease however, can be ascribed, in order of importance, to the group of Oceania, to that of Europe and to that of America, whereas, conversely, in Africa and in Asia a certain rise in the number of these workers is becoming apparent. These trends have ensured that their respective numbers on the various continents are gradually changing as can be seen from the percentages shown in Table 5.

Table 5 - Professed Religious (non-priests) in 1978, 1988, and 2000:
their geographical distribution and numerical variations

 

CONTINENT

Professed Religious non-priests

Number

Percentage of the total

Percentage
of variation
1978-2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

AFRICA

5,248

5,495

7,256

6.92

8.49

13.18

38.26

AMERICA

23,747

19,516

16,615

31.33

30.17

30.18

-30.03

ASIA

6,508

6,391

7,659

8.59

9.88

13.91

17.69

EUROPE

37,104

30,681

21,691

48.95

47.43

39.40

-41.54

OCEANIA

3,195

2,603

1,836

4.21

4.02

3.33

-42.54

WORLD

75,802

64,686

55,057

100.00

100.00

100.00

-27.37


Let us now look at the variations of professed women religious who constitute a substantial group of pastoral workers: in 1978, they were under a million. This group also decreased visibly in the period under consideration, dropping from 991,000 at the beginning of the period, to 801,000 at the end, with a relative decrease of 19% in 22 years. Once again, the profound difference on the various continents must be pointed out: while Oceania, Europe and America are experiencing a continuous, progressive reduction of these groups, in Asia and in Africa the population is steadily growing. The incidence of the various continents on the total is practically the same (in 1978 and 2000) in America and in Oceania; on the other hand, the percentage in Europe has dropped from 55% to 46%, while in Asia it has risen from 9% to 17%, and the percentage of professed African women religious has grown from 3.6% to 6.6% (Table 6).

Table 6 - Professed religious in 1978, 1988 and 2000: 
their geographical distribution and numerical variations



CONTINENT

Professed religious

Number

Percentage of the total

Percentage
of variation
1978-2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

AFRICA

35,473

40,789

52,583

3.58

4.53

6.56

48.23

AMERICA

300,489

269,967

232,986

30.33

30.01

29.08

-22.46

ASIA

91,585

109,540

138,195

9.24

12.18

17.25

50.89

EUROPE

546,029

465,273

366,326

55.11

51.72

45.72

-32.91

OCEANIA

17,192

14,075

11,095

1.74

1.56

1.38

-35.46

WORLD

990,768

899,644

801,185

100.00

100.00

100.00

-19.13


It is also interesting to look at the variations in other categories of pastoral workers, namely: catechists, lay missionaries and the members of secular institutes, who also work in the Catholic Church's catechetical programmes. We see immediately from Table 7 that it is only the members of Secular Institutes who have suffered a slight decrease in the 10 years reviewed (1990-2000), while lay missionaries have very rapidly increased (by as much as 45.7 times), and catechists have steadily grown to over 2.6 million. The territorial increases were, as usual, very varied.

Table 7 - Other categories of pastoral workers on 31 December 1990 and 31 December 2000


CONTINENT

Members of Secular Institutes

Lay Missionaries

Catechists

1990

2000

Variat. %

1990

2000

Variat. %

1990

2000

Variat. %

AFRICA

451

444

-1.6

1329

1,222

-8.1

256,903

385,897

50.2

AMERICA

4,757

5,780

21.5

864

119,582

13,704.5

964,544

1,480,335

53.5

ASIA

892

1,457

63.3

352

3,597

921.9

172,630

260,961

51.2

EUROPE

25,272

22,961

-9.1

-

1,857

-

359,540

502,352

39.7

OCEANIA

47

45

-4.3

220

107

-51.4

26,162

12,343

-52.8

WORLD

31,419

30,687

-2.3

2,765

126,365

4,470.2

1,779,779

12,641,888

48.4


6. Candidates to the priesthood throughout the world have multiplied (Table 8). From 64,000 in 1978, they numbered 111,000 in 2000 with a trend of continuous and uninterrupted growth in all the intervening years. However, while these increases in Africa and Asia are proving substantial and impressive, in the first continent, in Europe and Oceania the trends are more chequered and the increases far less.

Table 8 - Candidates to the priesthood in 1978, 1988 and 2000: their geographical distribution, numerical variations, indication of priestly vocations



CONTINENT

Candidates to the priesthood

Number

Percentage of the total

Percent variation
1978-2000

Per one million Catholics

Per 100 priests

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

1978

1988

2000

AFRICA

5,636

12,636

20,383

8.82

13.42

18.43

261.66

102.92

154.32

156.77

33.30

65.58

75.03

AMERICA

22,011

31,010

36,392

34.46

32.94

32.91

65.34

60.04

69.78

70.07

18.30

25.97

30.12

ASIA

11,536

19,090

26,006

18.06

20.28

23.52

125.43

182.58

226.45

242.36

41.65

59.12

59.69

EUROPE

23,915

30,581

26,879

37.44

32.48

24.31

12.39

89.78

109.45

95.95

9.55

13.39

12.88

OCEANIA

784

831

923

1.23

0.88

0.83

17.73

139.60

120.96

122.52

14.06

15.25

18.66

WORLD

63,882

94,148

110,583

100.00

100.00

100.00

73.11

84.44

104.97

105.82

15.17

23.25

27.29


One factor that relativizes the number of candidates to the priesthood consists in including their number among the number of Catholics on the various continents. We therefore realize that this number calculated per million Catholics varies considerably from continent to continent and in the three years considered: in particular, in 2000 the number of candidates to the priesthood went from 242 per million Catholics in Asia, to 157 in Africa, 113 in Oceania, 96 in Europe, and 70 in America. A last interesting statistic that can be seen as a rate of renewal, is obtained by comparing the number of candidates to the priesthood with the number of priests; in particular, this ratio was multiplied by 100 to highlight the number of candidates to the priesthood per 100 priests. Once again, the rapidly growing trend in the number of African and Asian candidates is reflected in these ratios that have rapidly grown in time and are far higher than on the other continents: in 2000 there were 75 candidates per 100 priests in Africa and 60 in Asia. Instead numbers were much lower in America (30), in Oceania (19) and in Europe (13). As a result of what has been mentioned above, the relative number on the various continents has changed during the years examined.
 
Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
15 May 2002, page 8

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