Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2002
L'Osservatore Romano

The slow and steady growth of the Catholic church worldwide
1. The Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2002, compiled by the Central Office for Statistics of the Church and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana was recently presented.

In comparison with the better known Annuario Pontificio, which lists names and biographies, the Statistical Year Book prints the principal statistics that concern the Catholic Church in the various countries and individual continents.

As every year, the data are complemented by captions in Latin, English and French, and are completed by tables that show the variations in structure and time of certain basic elements of the Catholic Church.

The following notes highlight the most important trends for the Catholic Church between 1978, the year in which the Pontificate of John Paul II began, and 2002.

Baptized Catholics worldwide

2. An examination of the data in Table 1 shows a gradual increase in the number of baptized Catholics across the world from 757 million in 1978 to 1.07 billion in 2002. The growth factor varied considerably from continent to continent: whereas Africa showed an increase of 151 percent of Catholic faithful, Europe, on the contrary, presented a generally static situation (+5.09 percent); the substantial increases in Asia (+74.47 percent), in Oceania (+49.55 percent) and in America (+45.75 percent), deserve to be recorded.

Naturally these trends are linked to the demographic trends, so more exact information can be obtained by comparing the ratio of the faithful with the number of inhabitants. These figures show that in Africa growth has been constant (from 12 faithful per 100 inhabitants in 1978, to 14 in 1990 and 17 in 2002), while such growth has been more stable in America and in Asia.

It can also be said, however, that on the single continents, the relative number of faithful varies enormously: from the most recent year in our period, their number ranges from 3 faithful per 100 inhabitants in Asia, to 62 in America. For example in Oceania this ratio of the faithful was about 27 and in Europe, 40.

Of special interest are the data showing the distribution of baptized Catholics in the various geographical areas of the planet: the Continent of America in particular is home to 50 percent of the Catholics of the entire world, while Europe has 26 percent. Lower figures are recorded for Africa (12.8 percent) Asia (10.3 percent) and Oceania (0.78 percent).

Table 1 - Catholics in 1978,1990 and 2002:
geographical distribution per 100 inhabitants - variations of the period

CONTINENT

Catholic Faithful (Baptized)

In thousands

Per 100 of the total

Per 100 inhabitants

Percent of
variation
1978-2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990 

2002

 AFRICA

54,759

88,899

137,428

7.24

9.57

12.84

12.37

13.93

16.55

150.97

 AMERICA

366,614

461,264

534,339

48.46

49.68

49.92

62.22

63.74

62.29

45.75

 ASIA

63,183

86,012

110,234

8.35

9.26

10.30

2.53

2.73

2.90

74.47

 EUROPE

266,361

285,294

279,915

35.21

30.73

26.15

40.53

39.96

39.87

5.09

 OCEANIA

5,616

7,031

8,399

0.74

0.76

0.79

25.30

26.57

26.78

49.55

 WORLD

756,533

928,500

1,070,315

100.00

100.00

100.00

17.99

17.68

17.20

41.48


Catholic Bishops worldwide

3. Table 2 shows that in the 24 years from 1978 to 2002, the number of Bishops rose from 3,714 to 4,695, with a relative increase of about 27 percent. This slight and gradual increase can be found on all the continents, even if the relative variation is greater for Africa and Oceania, and a little less than the general trend for Europe and America.

It is likewise possible to point out that the relative number of Catholics on each continent stayed about the same in this period and corresponds with the relative importance of the figures for each continent.

It is also interesting to note the significance of the number of diocesan and religious priests per Bishop, so as to have approximate figures for the situation on each continent.

Worldwide, this ratio has gradually diminished as time has passed, showing a better, more harmonious distribution of Bishops and priests in the respective context of each continent.
 

Table 2 - Bishops in 1978,1990 and 2002: 
geographical distribution and numerical variations



CONTINENT

Bishops

 

Percentage
of variation
1978-2002

Number

Per 100 of the total

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

AFRICA

432

494

617

11.63

11.73

13.14

42.82

AMERICA

1,416

1,591

1,762

38.13

37.79

37.54

24.44

ASIA

519

584

679

13.97

13.87

14.46

30.83

EUROPE

1,253

1,435

1,511

33.74

34.09

32.18

20.59

OCEANIA

94

106

126

2.53

2.52

2.68

34.04

WORLD

3,714

4,210

4,695

100.00

100.00

100.00

26.41

 
     n. Priests / n. Bishops

1978

1990

2002

Africa

39.2 41.3 47.4

America

84.9 74.7 68.9

Asia

53.4 58.0 67.4

Europe

199.9 156.5 134.8

Oceania

59.3 51.2 38.5

World

113.3 95.8 86.3

Diocesan and religious priests worldwide

4. In 2002, out of a total of 405,058 priests, 267,334 were members of the diocesan clergy and 137,724 were religious priests; in 1978, on the other hand, there were 420,971 priests overall, that is, 262,485 diocesan priests and 158,486 religious priests (Table 3).

The incidence of diocesan and religious clergy has significantly changed: respectively, they accounted for 62 percent and 38 percent in 1978, as compared to 66 percent and 34 percent in 2002.

The total number of priests in 2002, in comparison with the number of priests in 1978, has dropped by 3.78 percent, as a result of the 13.10 percent decrease in the number of religious clergy and the increase of 1.85 percent in the number of diocesan clergy. The percentage that shows the sharpest fall has been recorded in Europe (about 19 percent for both categories of clergy), followed by Oceania; the number of Asian priests (diocesan and religious) has risen, as has the number of diocesan priests in Africa and America. Except in Asia, the number of religious clergy has dwindled everywhere.

It should be explained that the slight downward trend in the total number of diocesan and religious priests in the world in the two years at the end of the present analysis occurred between 1978 and 1990 and was followed by a period of substantial growth. It should also be noted that the numerical decline can be ascribed mainly to religious priests, whose numbers fell from 158,486 to 145,477 to 137,724 respectively in the three years: 1978, 1990 and 2002.

In the same context, the number of diocesan priests went from 262,485 in 1978 to 257,696 in 1990, to recover to 267,334 in 2002.

In 2002, the distribution of clergy per continent was marked by a strong prevalence of European priests (50.3 percent), whose number is more or less double that of their American counterparts; Asian clergy account for 11.3 percent, African clergy for 7.2 percent, and those of Oceania, for 1.2 percent.

Between 1978 and 2002, the relative incidence of priests in Oceania remained unchanged; on the other hand, the number of African as well as of American and Asian clergy grew; the same cannot be said of European clergy overall, whose numbers fell visibly from 59.5 percent to 50.3 percent.

The demographic variations and changes in the number of priests explain the variations in the number of Catholics per priest. With time, the ratio across the world of 1,797 Catholics per priest at the beginning of the period has risen to 2,642 at the end of it.

This ratio of Catholics per priest has risen on every continent; however, the size of the ratio does not appear to differ much between continents. In 2002, for example, the average number was about 1,300 Catholics per priest in Europe, while in Africa there were about 4,700 and in America 4,400; and these figures show the numerical ratio between pastoral workers and the faithful.
 

Table 3 - Diocesan or religious priests in 1978, 1990, and 2002 per continent: variations over the period



CONTINENT

 

Priests

1978

1990

2002

Percent variation 1978-2002

Diocesan 

Religious

Total

Diocesan Religious Total  Diocesan

Religious

Total Diocesan Religious Total 

AFRICA

5,507

11,419

16,926

10,287

10,112

20,399

18,872

10,402

29,274

242.69

-8.91

72.95

AMERICA

66,084

54,187

120,271

69,508

49,374

118,882

76,760

44,634

121,394

16.16

-17.63

0.93

ASIA

13,863

13,837

27,700

18,799

15,056

33,855

27,274

18,516

45,790

96.74

33.82

65.31

EUROPE

174,175

76,323

250,498

156,312

68,294

224,606

141,724

62,027

203,751

-18.63

-18.73

-18.66

OCEANIA

2,856

2,720

5,576

2,790

2,641

5,431

2,704

2,145

4,849

-5.32

-21.14

-13.04

WORLD

262,485

158,486

420,971

257,696

145,477

403,173

267,334

137,724

405,058

1.85

-13.10

-3.78


Permanent deacons, religious men and women worldwide

5. Of course, the pastoral apostolate of bishops and priests is accompanied by other pastoral workers: an analysis of these has led to the following conclusions.

In the meantime, to give an idea of the overall structure, permanent deacons, diocesan and Religious, taken together, accounted in 2002 for almost 55 percent of non-ordained professed men religious (55,000 in 2002), and in turn, their number is 14 times lower than the number of professed women religious.

Permanent deacons constitute the group that has changed the most in the period: overall, on all the continents their number has increased more than five times, with a relative increase of 441 percent (Table 4). Although this growth has been visible everywhere, its pace continues to vary considerably from one continent to another: in Europe, the increase has been steady and noticeable (762 percent); in Asia, in comparison, it has been far more contained (175 percent), and on the other continents, more or less stable.

There are no very significant trends to report in the global distribution of deacons during the period under review except for the relative decline in number of deacons in America and a corresponding growth in Europe.

This religious figure is especially to be found in America (particularly North America), which has 65 percent of all the world's deacons, as well as in Europe (32 percent).
 

Table 4 – Permanent deacons in 1978, 1990, and 2002:
Their geographical distribution and variations over the period

Permanent deacons (diocesan and religious)


CONTINENT

Number

Per 100 of the total

Percentage of variation
1978-2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

AFRICA

91

275

336

1.64

1.57

1.12

269.23

AMERICA

4,239

12,562

19,651

76.21

71.68

65.29

363.58

ASIA

52

92

143

0.93

0.52

0.47

175.00

EUROPE

1,133

4,505

9,772

20.37

25.71

32.47

762.49

OCEANIA

47

91

195

0.85

0.52

0.65

314.89

WORLD

5,562

17,525

30,097

100.00

100.00

100.00

441.12


Non-ordained professed religious account for a group which is visibly dwindling throughout the world: they numbered 76,000 in 1978 and 55,000 in 2002. The decrease, however, can be ascribed in order of importance respectively to the groups in Oceania, Europe and America, whereas in Africa, the number of these Religious is growing, as it is in Asia, although to a lesser extent. These trends have ensured that the relative number on the various continents has gradually changed, as can be seen from the data shown in percentages in Table 5.

Table 5 - Professed Religious (non-priests) in 1978, 1990, and 2002:
their geographical distribution and numerical variations

 

CONTINENT

Professed religious non-priests

Number

Percentage of the total

Percentage
of variation
1978-2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

AFRICA

5,248

5,963

7,139

6.92

9.54

13.02

36.03

AMERICA

23,747

18,941

16,959

31.33

30.29

30.93

-28.58

ASIA

6,508

6,637

8,148

8.59

10.61

14.86

25.20

EUROPE

37,104

28,525

20,903

48.95

45.62

38.12

-43.66

OCEANIA

3,195

2,460

1,679

4.21

3.93

3.07

-47.45

WORLD

75,802

62,526

54,828

100.00

100.00

100.00

-27.67


We now examine the variations in both time and place of professed women religious, who represent, as has been noted, a very large group: in 1978 they numbered 1,000,000. Across the world this group also suffered a downward trend in the period considered here. From 991,000 at the beginning of the period, it was reduced to 783,000 at the end with a pronounced decrease of 21 percent over 24 years.

Once again, the significant difference in trends across the various continents must be emphasized: whereas Oceania, Europe and America (the latter to a lesser extent) are witnessing a continuous and progressive decline in the number of professed women religious, in Asia and in Africa the populations are steadily increasing so as to balance the overall decrease that can be noted on the other continents. Once again, we can note that these trends entail the percentage variation of the numbers on each continent, shown in Table 6.

Table 6 - Professed religious in 1978, 1990 and 2002: 
their geographical distribution and numerical variations



CONTINENT

Professed women religious

Number

Percentage of the total

Percentage
of variation
1978-2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

AFRICA

35,473

42,429

53,980

3.58

4.81

6.89

52.17

AMERICA

300,489

265,653

225,486

30.33

30.12

28.80

-24.96

ASIA

91,585

112,127

144,780

9.24

12.70

18.49

58.08

EUROPE

546,029

448,348

348,085

55.11

50.83

44.46

-36.25

OCEANIA

17,192

13,554

10,601

1.74

1.54

1.36

-38.34

WORLD

990,768

882,111

782,932

100.00

100.00

100.00

-20.98


Priesthood candidates worldwide

6. As can be seen from the data shown in Table 7, the upward trend in figures for philosophy and theology students in both diocesan and religious centres has also continued in 2002. That year, the total number of seminarians was 113,000, of which 35 percent of the seminarians were religious, and 65 percent diocesan.

There was also an overall increase in the number of philosophy and theology students in 2002. The rate of growth, however, has slackened considerably this past year (0.9 percent), in comparison with the average annual growth in the previous 23 years (3.29 percent).

The rate of variation in each geographic area has not changed substantially, although the overall growth is less on continents where it had formerly increased. Indeed, Africa, which had an average increase of 11.8 percent in the period considered, fell to 5.8 percent in the last year: Asia, on the other hand, which had an annual increase of 5.9 percent, has remained more or less stationary.

This situation, also recorded in America, is due to the simultaneous increase and decrease: the decline continues in Central America, in the Antilles region; there is a very slight increase in the North and continuous growth in South America.

Europe is a case apart, since in recent years, the number of candidates to the priesthood there has fallen.

The distribution over large geographical areas, with the exception of Europe which showed a further downward trend in the last year reviewed, and the slight growth in Africa have remained substantially unchanged; however, the figures in Table 7 show the ratio between the candidates to the priesthood, area by area, and the number of Catholics per priest.

With regard to the number of candidates to the priesthood in proportion to the Catholic population, it is interesting to point out that also in 2002 it was well above the world average (106 candidates per 1 million Catholics), Asia (248) and Africa (162). In Oceania it was slightly above the average (113), whereas all the other regions were below the world average.

The trends over time show a strong growth of the numbers in Africa and Oceania in the period 2001-2002, in continuation with the past trend. Europe and Asia showed a slight decrease in the last year, in comparison with the upward trend seen in the past. The survey, area by area, of the number of candidates to the priesthood compared to the number of priests remained practically the same.

In 2002, on a world scale, there were 280 candidates to the priesthood per 1,000 priests. Most of them are on the Continent of Africa (759), whereas Europe had the fewest (123).

Table 7 - Candidates to the priesthood in 1978, 1990 and 2002: their geographical distribution,  
variations over the period,  indication of priestly vocations



CONTINENT

Candidates to the priesthood

Number

Per 100 of the total

Percent variation
1978-2002

Per one million Catholics

Per 100 priests

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

1978

1990

2002

AFRICA

5,636

14,363

22,210

8.82

14.94

19.62

294.07

102.92

161.57

161.61

33.30

70.41

75.87

AMERICA

22,011

31,049

37,775

34.46

32.29

33.37

71.62

60.04

67.31

70.69

18.30

26.12

31.12

ASIA

11,536

21,288

27,245

18.05

22.13

24.06

136.17

182.58

247.50

247.16

41.65

62.88

59.50

EUROPE

23,915

28,661

25,023

37.44

29.81

22.11

4.63

89.78

100.46

89.39

9.55

12.76

12.28

OCEANIA

784

794

946

1.23

0.83

0.84

20.66

139.60

112.93

112.63

14.06

14.62

19.51

WORLD

63,882

96,155

113,199

100.00

100.00

100.00

77.20

84.44

103.56

105.76

15.17

23.85

27.95

 
Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
14 July 2004, page 5

L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:

The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069
lormail@catholicreview.org


Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210
www.ewtn.com