Vatican: Catholic Church Membership Worldwide Surpasses 1.3 Billion

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The Vatican released its annual yearbook for 2019 Wednesday along with its most recent official statistics, which shows growth in Church membership on all continents.

According to the Annuarium statisticum Ecclesiae 2017, which furnishes statistics from the latest year for which verified data is available, the number of baptized Catholics in the world now exceeds 1.31 billion.

That figure represents 17.7 percent of the global population of 7.41 billion, the Vatican stated.

Nearly half of the world’s Catholics (48.5 percent) live in the Americas, followed by another 21.8 percent in Europe, 17.8 percent in Africa, 11.1 percent in Asia, and 0.8 percent in Oceania.

Between 2016 and 2017, the Catholic population grew on every continent, though unevenly, with a total world increase of 1.1 percent.

At the higher end, both Asia and Africa saw 2.5 percent growth of their respective Catholic populations, while in the Americas Catholics increased by 0.96 percent, and at the lowest end, Catholics in Europe grew by a mere 0.1 percent.

As a percentage of the overall population, Catholics represent 86.6 percent of the South American population, 39 percent of the European population, 24.7 percent of the population of North America, 19.2 percent of the African population, and just 3.3 percent of the Asian population.

Worldwide, students training for the Catholic priesthood diminished by 0.7 percent between 2016 and 2017, from 116,160 to 115,328, the Vatican said, with the bulk of the drop experienced in Europe and the Americas.

The distribution of Catholic seminarians by continent changed little over this period, with 14.9 percent of students for the priesthood in Europe, 27.3 percent in the Americas, 27.1 percent in Africa, and 29.8 percent in Asia.

A constant trend shows the Catholic Church growing steadily in Asia and Africa, both in absolute terms and regarding candidate for the priesthood, while the opposite is happening in Europe, where the Church is experiencing scant growth, and an actual decline in seminarians.

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