The Common Good

Catholic Population Surges Across the Global South

 

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

VATICAN CITY — Gains in Asia and Africa are making up for losses in Europe among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, according to Vatican statistics released Monday, signaling a shift of the church’s center of gravity toward the Global South that was heralded by the election of the first Latin American pope.

Data published in the 2013 Statistical Yearbook of the Church also show that while the number of priests in the Americas and in Europe is declining compared to the overall Catholic population, those losses were offset by increasing ranks of permanent deacons.

There are now about 41,000 permanent deacons worldwide, a 40 percent increase over the past decade. The vast majority of them — 97.4 percent — live in the Americas or in Europe.

According to Maureen Tilley of Fordham University, the diaconate is becoming increasingly appealing to “older ‘second-career’ men,” as younger men remain reluctant to take the vow of celibacy required by the priesthood.

“The number of second-career vocations has been booming not just among Catholics but also among U.S. Protestants,” she said.

Moreover, according to Tilley, high unemployment may be another factor, leading men to consider a “broader variety of vocations such as volunteer service including a call to the diaconate.”

According to Vatican data, the Catholic population worldwide surpassed 1.2 billion in 2011.

But while growth in the Americas and Europe mirrored the growth of the general population, Catholic growth in Africa and Asia was almost double the regions’ population growth.

The world’s 413,418 priests at the end of 2011 showed a slight increase from the previous year, continuing a trend of slow growth that began in 2000 after decades of decline.

A rapid increase in vocations in Africa and Asia — to the tune of more than 3,000 new priests in a year — balanced the shrinking ranks of the priesthood in Europe. In the Americas, the number of priests remained stable.

Data provided by the Vatican’s statistics office doesn’t distinguish between North and South America.

Alessandro Speciale has been covering the Vatican since 2007 and started writing for Religion News Service in 2011. Born in Rome, he studied literature at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and journalism at City University, London. He has appeared as an expert on Vatican affairs on CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera English. Via RNS.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)