Catholic Church growing in Asia

growth in Asia

In a recently released Vatican report, the Catholic Church’s global landscape reflects contrasting trends, with growth in Asia while Europe experiences a decline.

The annual statistics, published in the Church’s Yearly Book of Statistics, reveal noteworthy shifts in the distribution of the Catholic population.

The report indicates a robust expansion in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Those regions showed an increase of 8.3 million, 1.49 million and 6.6 million baptised Catholics respectively in 2021.

However, Europe witnessed a decline of 244,000 Catholics during the same period. Asia demonstrated significant growth, contributing to 11 per cent of the global Catholic population.

The centre of the Church is “moving away from Europe and toward Asia and Africa where there’s vibrant growth” said Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen. Overbeck is Germany’s delegate to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union.

Clergy Dynamics

Worldwide, the clergy increased to 407,872 priests. This was highlighted by growth in Asia (1 per cent), Africa (3 per cent) and Oceania (0.2 per cent).

Europe and America however experienced declines of 2.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

The global number of bishops declined, except in Africa, which added seven bishops in 2021.

However Asia saw a decline in bishops with 804, down by four from the previous year.

Seminarian numbers decreased in Asia but increased in Africa.

Educational and Charitable Initiatives in Asia

The report also sheds light on the Catholic Church’s extensive educational and charitable initiatives in Asia. With around 1.3 million schools (kindergartens, primary, secondary and high schools), the Asian Catholic Church accounts for approximately 50 per cent of similar Catholic institutions worldwide.

Additionally, the Church serves around 13.9 million students across various educational levels.

In healthcare and social services, the Asian Catholic Church operates an estimated 12,208 institutions including hospitals, dispensaries, leprosy centres, homes for the elderly and disabled, orphanages and marriage counselling centres, serving millions in need.


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