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Decade-long decline in worldwide priestly vocations continues

March 07, 2023

For the first time since 1999, the number of major seminarians worldwide has fallen below 110,000, according to statistics released by the Vatican.

Between the end of 2020 and the end of 2021, the number of seminarians worldwide declined from 111,855 to 109,895.

The number of major seminarians worldwide surged from 63,882 in 1978 to 110,553 in 2000—far surpassing the rate of world population growth—and rose more steadily over the next decade to a peak of 120,616 in 2011. The decline has been especially pronounced since 2019: the number of seminarians stood at 114,058 at the end of 2019.

The 2021 decline in seminarians was most pronounced in North America and Europe. The only continent in which the number of seminarians rose in 2021 was Africa.

During 2021:

  • the number of Catholics rose by 1.3%, from 1.36 billion to 1.378 billion, a lower rate than the 1.7% rate of world population growth
  • the number of priests decreased 0.57% to 407,872
  • the number of religious brothers decreased 1.6% to 49,704
  • the number of religious sisters decreased 1.7% to 608,958
  • the number of permanent deacons rose 1.1% to 49,176


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