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World News

Europe sees decrease in Catholic numbers in new Vatican census

by Donna Birrell

The number of Catholics across the world grew by more than 15 million from 2018 to 2019, according to a census by the Vatican news agency, Fides.

Europe is the only continent which has seen a decrease with 292,000 fewer Catholics.  

The annual census shows that Catholics represented 17.7% of the global population in 2019, with Catholicism gaining followers in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

Africa has around 8.3 million Catholics, America has 5.3 million, Asia has 1.9 million and Oceania 118,000.

The census reveals that the total number of Bishops in the world decreased by 13 to 5,364. 

The total number of priests in the world increased by 271 to 414,336.

However, the number of Catholic priests in Europe decreased by 2,608, with the number of Catholics per priest growing to more than 3,245 to each priest.

There were also 690 priests fewer in America and 69 fewer in Oceania.

For the seventh year in a row, the number of religious Brothers and Sisters has declined globally - apart from in Africa. Sisters experienced the sharpest decline, losing 11,562 members.

However, the census shows that the number of lay missionaries grew by around 34,252 to 410,440. 

Charity and healthcare centres run by the Catholic Church number 5,245 hospitals, most of them in Africa (1,418) and in America (1,362.; 

Reflecting on the latest census, Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies, admitted that “de-Christianization is evident…… I think it will be necessary to implement courses for Christian formation.”

In a message shown at the news conference, Pope Francis said :

“The call to mission is not a thing of the past,” and the world needs missionaries willing “to go forth to the peripheries of our world as messengers and agents of compassion.”

On December 31st 2019, the world population was 7,577,777,000. Population growth was registered on every continent, including Europe. 

Earlier this month, Pope Francis launched a two-year consultation on the future direction of the Catholic Church.

The process will see every Catholic parish around the world asked for their views in a process which is seen as one of the most ambitious attempts at reform for generations.

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