|Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2005|
The steady growth of the Catholic Church worldwide
The Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae of 2005, compiled by the Central Office for Statistics of the Church and published by the Vatican Publishing House, has recently been presented.
In comparison with the Annuario Pontificio, in which precedence is given to names and biographies, the Annuario Statistico sums up certain quantitative dimensions of the Catholic Church in the different countries and continents.
The Annuarium's statistical tables, graphics included, are provided with captions in Latin, English and French.
An analysis of the statistics for each of the five continents from 2000 to 2005 makes it possible to visualize the relative structural changes: the areas with the most dynamic development and those that show problems and difficulties.
From 2000 to 2005, the number of Catholics in the world rose from lust over 1.045 billion to 1.115 billion, increasing by 6.7 percent. Since this percentage is close to the world demographic growth (about 6.9 percent), the presence of Catholics in the world has remained virtually the same: 17.28 percent in 2000 and 17.25 percent in 2005 (Table 1).Table 1 - Catholics in 2000, 2004 and 2005: geographical distribution per 100 inhabitants — variations over the period
A geographical analysis of trends in this five-year period shows an increase of about 18 percent in the Catholic population in Africa, whose demographic growth has increased by a little less than 14 percent. A comparison of these percentages shows the effectiveness of pastoral activity in African nations.
In Asia too, the increase in the number of Catholics outstrips that of its population (8.64 percent, as compared with 6.5 percent).
A more modest increase in the numbers of Catholics in America and Oceania is seen, while in Europe the number of Catholics remained more or less stationary in this period (0.18 percent).
In Asian nations, where 2.9 percent of the population are baptized, the ratio of Catholics to the total population has not changed; in Africa it has increased, while on other continents it has fallen.
The distribution of Catholics, echoing the differing demographic statistics for each continent, is somewhat different in the various parts of the globe; not so much for Africa and Oceania, where there is only a slight difference between the total population and the number of Catholics, as for the other three continents.About 14 percent of the American population continues to be Catholic, while the percentage of American Catholics has grown in this five-year period to account for almost 50 percent of the world Catholic population.
Europe demonstrates an opposite trend: although its population is almost the same size as America's, the number of European Catholics in the world has fallen from 26.8 to 25.2 percent, conspicuously lower than the percentage of Catholics in American countries.
The percentage of Asian Catholics has risen from 10.3 to 10.5 percent but is considerably lower than the population of the Continent, accounting for about 61 percent.
The fluctuations. as mentioned above, in the number of Catholics present in the various parts of the globe has required an adaptation of the territorial structures of the Church, to ensure that they correspond with the needs of an effective pastoral apostolate.
On the whole, the distribution by area of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions in the world reflects the phenomena mentioned for the period under examination: they have increased by more than 2 percent, from 2,992 to 3,061.
A conspicuous increase has been recorded in particular for Asia (the number of them has risen from 638 to 666, an increase equal to 4.4 percent).
In Europe, the number of ecclesiastical circumscriptions has remained stationary, while they have increased by 2 to 2.5 percent on the other continents.
If the number of faithful belonging to ecclesiastical circumscriptions is compared with the number in 2005, a marked difference is apparent.
While in Oceania (the Continent with the least demographic density in the territory) one ecclesial circumscription per 110,000 faithful is recorded, Asia has one per 175,000, Africa one per 301,000, and Europe one per 378,000. The highest rate is for America, with one circumscription per 521,000 faithful.
A more accentuated upward trend in the number of pastoral centres throughout the world is clearly revealed from 2000 to 2005: they increased overall from 409,000 to 433,000. Although the number of centres in Oceania and Europe has dwindled, the situation is very dynamic in America, Asia and Africa.
In America, pastoral centres have increased by 7.9 percent in five years, and in 2005 that Continent accounted for more than 30 percent of the world total, as compared with 29 percent in 2000. Europe is going in a different direction: the number of centres has fallen from 36 to 34 percent.
It is interesting to compare the figures of the total Catholic population with the number of pastoral centres. The rate has remained almost stationary across the globe, although with a very slight increase of about 2,500 Catholics per centre in the period under examination.
Africa shows the most outstanding variations, with an increase in the number of Catholics as time passes, whereas in America and Asia there is a downward trend in the figures that created a slight improvement in the ratio.
The situation in Europe is mainly stationary. Lastly, in Oceania an increase in the rate has been confirmed; this increase, however, is somewhat contained.
In the period from 2000 to 2005, the number of Bishops has risen from 4,541 to 4,841, with a relative increase of 6.61 percent (Table 2).
Table 2 - Bishops in 2000, 2004 and 2005: their geographical distribution and variations over the period
This growth is found on all continents. The relative variations are a little more marked for Asia and America, but slightly below the general trend for Africa, Europe and Oceania.
It can also be pointed out that the relative percentage for each continent in this period has remained almost the same, in keeping with the respective continental situations.
An evaluation of the number of diocesan and religious priests per Bishop might be helpful. This simple ratio gives a rough if somewhat simplistic idea, at least on a purely numerical basis, of the average pastoral duties incumbent upon each Bishop on each continent.
The following data show a better numerical balance between priests and Bishops in the period analyzed.
The number of both diocesan and religious priests has increased slightly in these five years under examination, with an overall variation of 0.3 percent (Table 3). This applies at a global level, although the dynamics are significantly different on each continent.
There were noticeable increases in Africa and Asia, where increases of 19.16 and 14.89 percent are respectively recorded, while the situation in America remains largely the same.
In Europe the number of priests per Bishop dropped by 4.97 percent, and Oceania by 4.71 percent.
Another more marked variability is visible if a distinction is made between the numbers of diocesan and religious priests.
While the number of diocesan priests across the world rose from 265,781 in 2000 to 269,762 in 2005, expressing an important recovery, the figures for religious priests appear to be steadily falling: from 139,000 in 2000, they dwindled to 136,000 in 2005.
The percentage of distribution of priests per continent shows substantial changes in the five years under examination. In 2000, Africa and Asia together contributed 17.4 percent overall of the world total. In 2005, their percentage has grown to over 20.
In this period, America maintained the number of about 30 percent, while Oceania remained more or less stationary with a little more than 1 percent.
The only continent that shows a visible decrease is Europe. In 2000, more than 208,000 European priests represented almost 51.5 percent of the total ecclesiastical group, while five years later their numbers had fallen to 48.8 percent, due to a marked decrease in the number of diocesan priests: from 145,268 to 138,492 (the number of religious ,priests also fell, to about 59,000).
The number of Catholics per priest across the world — which is inversely an indicator of the presence of priests — rose from about 2,579 in 2000 to more than 2,700 in 2005. It increased in Asia (2,463 to 2,329) and in Africa (4,786 to 4,741), while the situation in America is less satisfactory, since the dynamic increase in the number of Catholics was not matched by an adequate increase in the number of priests, which climbed from 4,298 to 4,592.
The situation also deteriorated in Oceania and in Europe, with the latter nevertheless continuing to have the most satisfying ratio despite its deterioration since 2000.
Deacons and Religious worldwide
Diocesan or religious permanent deacons constitute a rapidly developing group of pastoral workers (Table 4). There are not many of them today (33,339 worldwide in 2005) but they are rapidly increasing in number. From 2000 to 2005 the number of deacons worldwide has grown by 20 percent; this increase has affected all the territorial areas considered here.
Table 4 – Permanent deacons in 2000, 2004, and 2005:
In America, there are 18 percent more deacons, in Europe about 24 percent and in Oceania almost 27 percent; the number of African deacons has increased by 3.6 percent and a 10 percent increase is recorded in Asia.
The distribution of deacons in the period examined shows no very marked variation worldwide. There is only a slight decrease in the number of deacons in America and an increase on the same scale in Europe.
It is interesting to recall that this religious category is widespread in America (especially North America), where 47 percent of deacons worldwide are found, as well as in Europe (33 percent).
To usefully complete the picture outlined here, it is worth looking at the ratio of permanent deacons in comparison with the number of priests present, area by area. This will serve to shed light on the role of these pastoral workers in their activity beside priests.
The calculations showed that in 2005 the number of deacons varied by a minimum of 0.28 per 100 priests (in Asia) to a maximum of 17.95 in America. In the other areas, the ratios were something between 1.15 in Africa, 5.51 in Europe and 4.83 in Oceania, with an overall world figure of 8.22.
The trends of the ratio in this period are consistent on the whole. It might be possible to highlight the considerable increase, as from 2000, recorded in North and continental America and in the European zone, but at the other extreme, this is countered by slow growth in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Thus, it is evident in reference to this indicator that permanent deacons are concentrated precisely in the areas where it is harder to replace priests.
Professed men religious who are not priests represent a group that is rapidly diminishing worldwide: in 2000 they numbered 55,057 and in 2005 they were 54,708 (Table 5).
Table 5 - Professed Religious (non-priests) in
2000, 2004, and 2005:
The crisis affecting this category of pastoral workers does not seem to be ending. Apart from Africa and Asia, the constant decline of men religious in the rest of the world is a cause of concern.
Their diminishing numbers can be ascribed firstly to the decrease in Europe (-9.76 percent), then in America (-0.95) and in Oceania (-14.87).
These trends also account for a numerical difference over time between the various continents.
In 2005, Europe and America were still the continents with the highest number of non-ordained professed men religious, but the percentage of them was well below that recorded at the beginning of the period.
Europe in particular has seen this category plummet from 39.4 percent in 2000 to 35.78 percent in 2005.
Today, professed women religious overall account for a population of more than 760,000, about twice that of priests. About 42 percent of them live in Europe, followed by America, which has more than 215,000 women religious, and Asia with 153,000 (Table 6).
Table 6 - Professed religious in 2000, 2004 and 2005:
The number of professed women religious in the world has been steadily decreasing in the last quinquennium. Observing the distribution by continental area, a re-dimensioning in the presence of women religious is occurring in Europe and America to the advantage of Africa and Asia.
Indeed, the percentage of women religious active in Europe and America accounted for 75 percent of the total in 2000, and in 2005, for a little over 70 percent of the world total.
A positive variation of greater significance is seen in Africa, where the incidence of professed women religious in 2005 was 12 percent of the world total. Also in Asia, there has been a positive trend in the number of women religious, rising from slightly more than 52,000 to 58,000.
From 2000 to 2002, the number of philosophy and theology students in diocesan or religious seminaries increased. It then remained more or less stationary until 2005.
In the most recent period, there has generally been an increased ratio of 3.49 percent, which is less than the 3.98 percent of the 1995-2000 quinquennium and the 9.11 percent of the five years from 1990 to 1995, although this also indicates that consolidation of the growth is still occurring.
This relative variation has been positive on almost all continents except Europe, which recorded a decrease of 14.6 percent during the entire period. It was particularly high in Africa, 15.7 percent, and in Asia, 15.6 percent.
America has experienced a fairly steady growth in the number of candidates since 2002. followed by a consolidation of about 37,000.
In 2005, out of 100 candidates to the priesthood worldwide, 32 were American, 26 Asian, 21 African, 20 European and one was from Oceania.
As regards the ratio to he Catholic population of candidates to the priesthood (103 candidates per 1 million Catholics), it is interesting to note that in 2005 it was above the world average in Asia (258) and African (154), and lower in all other territorial areas.
Table 7 - Candidates to the priesthood in 2000, 2004 and 2005: their
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22 August 2007, page 5
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