Is the Catholic Church growing?

Latest Statistics

The Holy See has released statistics covering the period from 2005 to 2014. The statistics come from the 2016 edition of the Annuario Pontificio and the 2014 edition of the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, both of which will soon be released.

The Holy Press Office announced on March 5 that between 2005 and 2014, the world’s Catholic population rose from 1.115 billion (17.3% of the world’s population) to 1.272 billion (17.8%).

The number of Catholics increased in Africa (41 per cent), where there has been a population growth of 23.8 per cent. In the continent of Asia there was also an increase in the number of Catholics greater than that of the overall population increase (20 compared to 9.6 per cent), and the same occurred in America (11.7 compared to 9.6 per cent). In Europe there was a growth in the number of Catholics slightly higher (2 per cent) than that of the overall population. In Oceania population growth (18.2 per cent) was greater than the increase in the number of Catholics (15.9 per cent). In 2014 the total of baptised Catholics was distributed by continent as follows: Africa (17 per cent), America (48 per cent, remaining the continent with the greatest number of Catholics), Asia (10.9 per cent), Europe (22.6 per cent) and Oceania (0.8 per cent).


In 2014, nearly half (48%) of the world’s Catholics lived in North and South America while 22.6% lived in Europe, 17% in Africa, 10.9% in Asia, and 0.8% in Oceania.

Between 2005 and 2014, the number of priests increased from 406,411 to 415,792, while the number of permanent deacons rose from 33,000 to 44,566. The number of priests rose significantly in Africa (by 32.6%) and Asia (by 27.1%), while declining in Europe (by 8%). The numbers also revealed that 97.5% of permanent deacons live in North America, South America, or Europe.

Despite substantial gains in Africa and Asia, the number of religious brothers worldwide decreased from 54,708 in 2005 to 54,559 in 2014, while the number of religious sisters fell by 10.8% to 682,729.

The worldwide surge in the number of seminarians that began in the papacy of St. John Paul II has crested, as numbers rose from 63,882 (1978) to 114,439 (2005) to 120,616 (2011), and then fell to 116,939 (2014). Between 2005 and 2014, the number of seminarians soared in Africa (by 30.9%) and in Asia (by 29.4%) but plummeted in Europe (by 21.7%) and declined in North and South America (by 1.9%).

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