“The Church, how many divisions?” asked Stalin ironically. The simultaneous publication on March 6, 2019 of the Pontifical Yearbook and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae offer an assessment for the year 2018.
Out of a world population of 7.408 billion, 1.313 billion or 17.7% are baptized Catholics, distributed by continent as follows: 48.5% in America (North and South), 21.8% in Europe, 17.8% in Africa, 11.1% in Asia and 0.8% in Oceania.
Over the period of time taken into account, the increase rate of Catholics was 1.1%, while Europe and America had a lower rate, + 0.1% and +0.98% respectively. The vitality continues on the African continent that has the strongest rate of increase, 2.5%.
The number of priests has slightly decreased, going from 414,969 to 414,582 in 2017. The same is true of the number of seminarians that went from 116,160 in 2016 to 115,328 in 2017, which represents a 0.7% decrease, particularly in Europe and America.
Lessons to be Drawn from These Statistics:
While the proportion of Catholics in the world remains stable from year to year according to the statistics published by the Holy See (17.7% in 2018), one must not forget the rise of Islam which represented 25% of the global population in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.
What is more, the increase in the number of baptized faithful has to be set in the context of the inexorable decline of Europe where the Church is more and more often the victim of—when she is not actively participating in—the secularization of society, while immigration is ushering in a constant progress for Islam.
While African and Asian Catholicism are holding strong, there is a slowdown in America; the defection of those disappointed by the post-conciliar period who join Protestant sects by the handful has an important part in this and presents a worrisome element for the Church.
Lastly, the decrease in the number of priests and vocations throughout the world shows the continued pertinence of the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X’s interview with FSSPX.News on October 12, 2018: “The influence of the priesthood is the sole means by which the Church will be brought back to Tradition. We categorically must revive this conviction.”