Global imbalance in catholics-per-priest ratio

Global imbalance in Catholics

The number of people devoted to serving catholics in Asia and Africa has grown, however a global imbalance exists in pastoral ministry.

The Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics published a report showing spiritual care is far more readily available to Catholics in Europe and Asia than in the Americas and Africa.

The report, published in February, showed catholics globally reached 1.36 billion at the end of 2020. This is an increase of 16 million over the previous year.

Just over 20% of the world’s catholics live in Europe, and 40% of the world’s priests minister there. Asia is also well-served, with 11% of the global Catholic population and 17.3% of the world’s priests.

At the other end of the scale, the Americas and Africa are underrepresented by priests.

The Americas have 48% of the world’s catholics but only 29.3% of the world’s priests; Africa has 18.9% of the global catholic population and 12.3% of the priests.

Meanwhile, Oceania has just under 1% of the global catholic population, where 1.1% of the world’s priests reside.

The statistical office noted an ‘obvious imbalance’ in the global ratio of catholics per priest in different regions. Globally there is one priest for every 3,314 catholics in the world. But the ratio is one priest for 1,746 catholics in Europe, 2,086 catholics per priest in the Americas and 5,089 catholics per priest in Africa.

The number of religious brothers rose in 2020 to 50,569 the office said, with growth coming in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

And while the number of women religious in Africa and Asia increased, the total was not enough to offset the declines in Europe, the Americas and Oceania. As a result, the total number of professed women was 619,546 at the end of 2020.

Permanent deacon number grew to 48,635, a slight increase over the previous year. The majority of them served in the Americas.

The number of seminarians decreased globally to just under 112,000, with every region except Africa showing a downturn.


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