VATICAN CITY — Vatican statistics released today show that the number of Asian and African Catholics is continuing its upward trajectory, while the Church in Europe is still shrinking.
The number of religious excluding priests has risen 18.5% in Africa and a whopping 44.9% in Asia in just 10 years, according to the 2013 Pontifical Yearbook.
The yearbook, which was published May 13 and contains data from 2011, revealed Catholics still make up less than 18% of the world’s population, but the Church is growing the fastest in Africa and Asia.
And although it shows “a strong downward trend was observed in data for the professed religious women, with a decrease of 10% from 2001 to 2011,” there has also been “a sustained increase,” with more than 28% in Africa and 18% in Asia.
The yearbook states that, although the number of Catholics in the world increased by just 1.5% from 2010 to 2011, it increased by 4.3% in Africa and 2% in Asia.
The total number of Catholics that were baptized in 2011 had the highest representation in the Americas, at 48.8%, followed by Europe with 23.5%; Africa was at 16%, Asia had 10.9%, and Oceania came in at just under 1%.
“The dynamics of the number of priests in Africa and Asia is somewhat comforting,” says the document.
It reports that there were more than 3,000 new priests in the two continents in 2011 and that in the last 10 years the numbers increased by 39.5% in Africa and 32% in Asia.
“America remains stationary around an average of 122,000 priests, and Europe, in contrast to the global average, has seen a decrease of 9% in the past decade,” the yearbook says.
Another surprising fact is that the number of permanent deacons has also boomed, especially in Europe and the United States, increasing by more than 40% in the last 10 years.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Substitute for General Affairs Archbishop Angelo Becciu presented the yearbook on May 13 to Pope Francis.
It was edited by several people, including Msgr. Vittorio Formenti, head of the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Church, and Enrico Nenna, the chief statistician in the Vatican’s Central Office for Church Statistics.
The number of Catholics worldwide has remained steady at 1.214 billion for the year 2011.