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Vatican reports a rise in lay people in 2022, but a decline in priests

08 April 2024


A child is baptised by Fr Anthony Assebiah in an RC chapel in the village of Nzulezo, in Ghana

A child is baptised by Fr Anthony Assebiah in an RC chapel in the village of Nzulezo, in Ghana

THE number of Roman Catholics across the globe has increased, with the largest rise in Africa and in the Americas, according to new figures released by the Vatican.

The 2024 Pontifical Yearbook and the 2022 Statistical Yearbook of the Church detail the numbers of bishops, priests, and deacons and members of religious orders around the world each year.

The latest available figures show a rise of one per cent globally in the number of baptised Roman Catholics, from 1.376 billion in 2021 to 1.390 billion in 2022. In the same period, the world’s population grew by 0.83 per cent. The largest rise in baptised Catholics — of three per cent — was recorded in Africa. The Americas recorded a 0.9 per cent growth, and Asia a 0.6 per cent growth. Europe and Oceania were unchanged.

The Americas are where most Roman Catholics can be found: 48 per cent of the world’s total. Brazil has the highest number of baptised Catholics in the world: 180 million.

There was also a small rise of 0.25 per cent, in Africa and Asia, in the number of bishops. Europe had a small decline in the number of RC bishops.

The number of priests has continued to decline, as it has done since 2012, with the greatest decline — 1.7 per cent — in Europe; but the number of permanent deacons has increased by two per cent. There has also been a continued fall in the number of men coming forward for ordination, particularly in Europe and Asia.

Membership of religious orders also diminished, and are now described as in “sharp decline”, with the number of professed religious women, particularly, showing a 1.6 per cent drop. The total figure masks regional discrepancies, however, with a rise in religious women in Africa and South-East Asia offset by significant falls in the number of women in Europe, North America, and Oceania.

The statistics also report that four new bishoprics were created, two dioceses have been united, and one created.

The annual directories, which run to thousands of pages, are printed each year by the Vatican printing press, and distributed to bookshops.

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