THE CHURCH’S NUMERICAL STRENGTH CONTINUES TO GROW
LOR


‘Annuarium Statisticum’ Published for 1998

1. The Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae was recently published with Church statistics for 1998.

The publication provides a quantitative overview of the Catholic Church according to the different continents and countries. Here we will focus on the aspects that indicate the most important trends.

2. The worldwide increase in the number of baptized Catholics from 1996 to 1997 continued in 1998. It is interesting to note that the increase in 1998 is slightly higher than in 1997 (respectively 1.29% and 1.02%), and is greater than the increase from 1997 to 1998 in the general population. Thus, the number of baptized Catholic faithful has risen by one tenth of one per cent: from 17.3 Catholics per 100 inhabitants in 1997 to 17.4 in 1998.

CONTINENT Bishops Priests Permanent
deacons
Brothers Women
religious
Members of secular
institutes
Lay
missionaries
Catechist Total
Africa 1.34 60.53  0.73 16.34 119.32  0.88  2.92 797.94 1,000
America 0.98 70.36  9.80 9.94 138.91  3.28  30.46 736.27 1,000
Asia 1.49 100.12  0.53 18.75 323.71  2.90  5.49 547.01 1,000
Europe 1.32 191.67  7.14 21.80 344.12  21.30  0.51 412.14 1,000
Oceania 3.45 149.16  5.20 57.56 345.49  1.46  7.28 430.40 1,000
WORLD 1.20 109.58  6.86 15.66 220.65  8.33  15.28 662.44 1,000

The distribution of the Catholic population varies widely from one geographic area of the world to another: the American continent is home to almost half the world's Catholics (28.4% of the total number of Catholics live in South America and 14% in Central and North America), while Europe accounts for 27.8% of the whole. Smaller numbers are found in Africa (11.5%), Asia (10.4%, almost all concentrated in the South-East) and Oceania (0.8%). The figures cited refer to 1998 and are essentially the same as the previous year's, while differing slightly from those of 1978. It is important to note the downward trend in the number of European Catholics and the upward trend in Africa and Asia.

3. From 1978 to 1998 the number of Bishops rose from 3,714 to 4,439, an increase of slightly less than 20%. However, the average linear increase varies considerably from one region to another. The percentage of growth is greatest in Africa (1.66%) and least in Europe (0.82%); other data: Oceania, 1.17%; Asia 0.94%; America 0.91%.

Africa has clearly had a high increase compared to other areas, particulary in relation to Europe. However, the distribution of Bishops throughout the world has remained basically the same: 37.7% of all prelates are to be found in America, followed by 32.9% in Europe, 13.9% in Asia, 12.9% in Africa and 2.6% in Oceania.

Bishops in 1978, 1988 and 1998: geographical distribution and numerical variations                     

CONTINENT      

 Number

 per 100

 of the   total

Percentage
of variation 1978-1998
    1978   1988   1998   1978  1988  1998  
AFRICA     432     487     575   11.63  11.80  12.95   33.10
AMERICA   1,416   1,589   1,672   38.13  38.51  37.67   18.07
ASIA    519    578     617   13.97  14.01  13.90   18.88
EUROPE   1,253   1,365   1,459   33.74  33.08  32.87   16.44
OCEANIA       94     107      116     2.53    2.60    2.61   23.40
WORLD   3,714   4,126   4,439  100.00  100.00  100.00   19.52

4. The number of both diocesan and religious priests has fallen since 1978, although with considerable differences depending on the continent and the time period. In 1998 the total number of priests was 404,626; of these, 246,202 belonged to the diocesan clergy and 140,424 were religious.

From 1978 to 1998 the number of diocesan priests grew considerably in Africa; growth was less dynamic but still positive overall in Asia and America (on close inspection we can see the difference between the North, with downward trends more like those in Europe, and the Centre and the South, where the numbers are steadily rising). These trends contrast with the noticeable drop in Europe and the positive and negative variations in Oceania.

As for religious priests, who are steadily decreasing in Africa, America and Asia, and slightly increasing in Europe, we can see that, as the national Churches are consolidated, a certain number of these priests are returning to their places of origin.

5. However, although the number of priests (especially in Europe and North America) has fallen, there is a vigorous increase in the number of diocesan and religious permanent deacons, lay members of secular institutes, lay missionaries and catechists. Catechists, moreover, far outnumber the other categories. These trends thus show the difference in choices among pastoral workers, as well as the overall variations in the respective categories. Although the available data does not give us a precise idea of the magnitude of the shifts between the various categories, it is interesting to note the percentages per continent of the individual categories in 1998. The following table shows by continent the number of pastoral workers per 1,000 in each category.

It would be interesting to be able to analyze the longitudinal variations in these categories, also in the light of the initial data briefly indicated here, which suggest that we are seeing a balancing and reproportioning of the various categories of pastoral worker: the decrease in some corresponds to an increase in others, with a compensatory movement indicating differing religious choices. Understanding the shifts from one category to another, which according to the table differs considerably from one continent to another, could open our eyes to a changing reality.

6. Lastly, we would like to point out the movement of the Church's young dynamic forces, i.e., candidates for the priesthood and, even more interestingly, novices in male and female religious institutes. The picture appears particularly satisfying regarding seminarians in the African and American Churches (especially in Latin America), whereas in Europe the situation is at a standstill in the West but gaining momentum in the East (Poland is the exception: a vigorous period of growth from 1978 to 1988 has been followed by a marked decline). The longitudinal trend in the number of noviceswhere women continue to outnumber menshow rapid, widespread growth in Africa and a marked decrease in Europe, paralleling the data for priesthood candidates. The Americas fall somewhere in between, since the decline in North America is offset by a prevailing growth in South America, while Asia shows no clearly defined pattern.

Diocesan and religious priests in 1978, 1988 and 1998 by continent: numerical variations

CONTINENT   1978     1988     1998   Percentage of variation 1978-1998
  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 15,535 10,491 26,026 182.09 -8.13 53.76
AMERICA 66,084 54,187 120,271 68,414 50,989 119,403 74,039 46,258 120,297 12.04 -14.63 0.20
ASIA 13,863 13,837 27,700 17,789 14,502 32,291 24,337 17,119 41,456 75.55 23.72 49.66
EUROPE 174,175 76,323 250,498 159,033 69,413 228,446 147,517 64,310 211,827 -15.31        -15.74 -14.44
OCEANIA   2,856 2,720 5,576 2,779 2,669 5,448 2,774 2,246 5,020 -2.87 -17.43 -9.97
WORLD 262,485 158,486 420,971 257,199 147,658 404,857 264,202 140,424 404,626 0.65 -11.40 -3.88

Pastoral workers in the Catholic world as of 31 December 1998

CONTINENT  Bishops  Priests  Permanent Deacons  Brothers Women religious Members of secular institutes Lay missionaries Catechists Total
AFRICA 575 26,026 313 7,025 51,304 378 1,256 343,085 429,962
AMERICA 1,672 120,297 16,748 16,990 237,504 5,610 52,084 1,258,836 1,709,741
ASIA 617 41,456 219 7,764 134,035 1,200 2,274 226,500 414,065
EUROPE 1,459 211,827 7,890 24,097 380,309 23,535 562 455,481 1,105,160
OCEANIA 116 5,020 175 1,937 11,627 49 245 14,485 33,654    
WORLD 4,439 404,626 25,345 57,813 814,779 30,772 56,421 2,298,387 3,692,582

Major seminarians (diocesan and religious) per continent as of 31 December from 1978 to 1998

Years AFRICA NORTH 
AMERICA
CENTRAL
AMERICA
(Continental)
CENTRAL
AMERICA
(Antilles)
SOUTH
AMERICA
AISA
Middle East
ASIA
South-East
EUROPE OCEANIA WORLD
1978 5,636 9,636 3,275 580 8,520 335 11,002 22,902 784 62,670
1979 6,356 9,104 3,474 630 9,193 369 11,615 23,405 843 64,989
1980 6,549 8,543 3,613 727  9,817 368 11,822 23,666 937 66,042
1981 6,905 8,372 4,160 701 11,113 464 12,035 24,032 851 68,633
1982 7,495 8,234 4,665 655 11,959 421 13,026 25,630 916 73,001
1983 8,273 8,394 5,173 751 13,283 387 13,461 26,458 864 77,044
1984 8,894 8,264 5,670 745 13,768 410 14,017 27,616 918 80,302
1985 10,025 8,090 6,220 886 14,537 383 15,495 28,610 838 85,084
1986 10,708 7,828 6,333 907 14,840 425 16,460 29,197 813 87,511
1987 11,472 7,299 6,698 942 15,656 466 17,302 29,743 846 90,424
1988 12,636 6,937 6,866 975 16,232 525 17,915 29,256 831 92,173
1989 13,433 6,659 7,202 1,119 16,085 531 19,119 28,418 839 93,405
1990 14,363 6,268 7,717 863 16,201 558 20,730 28,661 794 96,155
1991 14,649 6,147 8,025 862 16,368 633 22,231 29,968 785 99,668
1992 15,618 5,972 8,072 972 17,475 644 22,229 30,240 778 102,000
1993 16,471 5,758 8,302 938 17,582 643 23,381 29,896 738 103,709
1994 17,125 5,692 8,435 1,025 17,808 702 23,943 29,511 834 105,075
1995 17,789 5,464 8,601 1,045 18,433 699 24,190 29,351 774 106,346
1996 18,156 5,413 8,445 1,144 18,041 696 24,473 28,641 861 105,870
1997 19,078 5,325 9,053 1,160 19,409 734 24,608 27,853 797 108,017
1998 19,654 5,439 9,180 1,126 20,326 804 24,677 27,154 811 109,171

Novices in religious institutes

Years Male novices Female novices
1982 8,958 17,939
1983 9,490 19,642
1984 9,659 20,293
1985 9,759 20,608
1986 9,648 21,103
1987 9,527 21,824
1988 9,556 21,639
1989 9,680 21,113
1990 10,075 21,338
1991 9,603 21,383
1992 9,602 21,338
1993 10,262 21,376
1994 10,635 20,617
1995 10,722 21,326
1996 10,819 21,286
1997  10,925 21,247
1998 10,923 21,303

 


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
3 May 2000, page 6/7

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