St Peter’s Square and the Vatican. VATICAN MEDIA

By Peter Pinedo

Catholic News Agency

March 9, 2023

On March 3 the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported the latest statistics about the global Catholic Church.

The Vatican’s reporting is based on data gathered at the end of 2021.

Here are the most important takeaways for you to know about the state of the Catholic Church today:

1. The total number of Catholics has increased.

The total number of Catholics across the world reached 1.378 billion, increasing 1.3% from the previous year. Though notably, this increase does not match the world’s total population increase of 1.6%.

2. The total number of priests continues to decrease.

The number of diocesan and religious order priests declined globally by 0.57% to 407,872. Religious order priests saw a larger decrease of 1.1%, while diocesan priests decreased by 0.32%.

3. The number of seminarians also continues its steady decline.

According to the Vatican, the number of seminarians has been decreasing since 2013. The latest report shows the number of seminarians across the globe decreased by 1.8% to 109,895. The sharpest declines were in North America and Europe, where the number of seminarians decreased by 5.8% on both continents.

4. The number of women religious decreased.

The total number of women religious in the world decreased by 1.7%, down to 608,958.

5. There is a huge imbalance of priests to lay faithful in the Americas.

While North and South America claim 48% of the world’s Catholics, the two continents only have 29% of the world’s priests.

The average ratio of priests to lay faithful across the world is 3,373 Catholics for every priest. In the Americas, there are 5,534 lay Catholics for every priest. In comparison, the ratio of priests to lay faithful in Europe is 1,784 per priest.

6. The total number of bishops decreased slightly.

The number of bishops across the globe decreased slightly from 5,363 to 5,340. The global average ratio is 76 priests per bishop.

7. The number of permanent deacons increased.

The number of permanent deacons increased by 1.1% to 49,176, with the majority being in the Americas.

8. Brazil has the highest number of Catholics of any nation in the world.

With 180 million faithful, Brazil has the greatest number of Catholics of any nation in the world.

9. The Church is growing quickly in Africa.

Despite continued violent persecution in countries such as Nigeria, the largest percentage increase of Catholics in the world was in Africa, with an increase of 3.1%.

10. Africa breaks the trend by showing an increase in seminarians and religious brothers.

Africa also saw the only increase in seminarians and religious brothers across the globe. The number of seminarians in Africa increased by 0.6%. The number of religious brothers in Africa increased by 2.2%.


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