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World’s Catholic population grows; number of priests and religious declines

October 21, 2022

» Continue to this story on Fides

CWN Editor's Note: The world’s Catholic population has grown, but the number of priests, religious, and seminarians has declined, the latest officials statistics show.

At the end of 2020— the last year for which full statistics are available— there were 1.4 billion Catholics in the world, making up nearly 18% of the world’s population. The Catholic population had risen by slightly over 1% from the previous year— about the same as overall population growth.

However, the number Catholic priests in the world had fallen by 1%, to 410,219. The number of women religious had declined by 1.5%, to 619,546. And the number of students at major and minor seminaries had fallen at about the same rate, to 207,254.

The statistics show the Catholic population growing fastest in Africa and Asia, while lagging in Europe. Africa and Asia also showed an increase in the number of priests (and, in Africa’s case, religious and seminarians as well), while the steepest declines were in Europe and the Americas (which the Vatican treats as a single unit).

The Fides news service posts the latest statistics each year before World Mission Sunday, which will be observed this year on October 23.

The above note supplements, highlights, or corrects details in the original source (link above). About CWN news coverage.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 22, 2022 3:58 PM ET USA

    A nuanced report, since the number of Catholics on the planet is determined by the number of Catholic baptisms. As we all know, baptism represents, among other things, the entry into the Catholic Church. But it does not represent the number of Catholics who believe and continue to live the Catholic faith. This number is far, far smaller, and I am sure completely unknown. Voting statistics alone provide sure and certain evidence of this assertion, as do the numbers of consolidations and closures.