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Church growth rates highest in Africa and Asia

WASHINGTON (CNS): The results of a study released on June 1 by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University, revealed that the highest growth rates in Catholicism are in Africa and Asia.

The study, Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts, looked at five specific regions: Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania, noted that, “Overall, the global Catholic population has grown by 57 per cent since 1980. However, this growth differs by region, with Europe’s Catholic population growing by just 6 per cent while the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 238 per cent.”

The study noted, “Differences between these two regions are largely attributable to differences in fertility rates over time.”

The centre transcribed data from the Vatican’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae from 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2012, the latest year available. It also referenced statistics in the Annuario Pontifico when necessary and used statistical forecasting to project future numbers.

The study noted, “Over the last 50 years, the proportion of the global population who are Catholic has remained remarkably steady at about 17.5 per cent. Most demographers anticipate a global population exceeding 10 billion by 2100, up from 7.3 billion now. The engine of population growth is no longer increasing numbers of children—it is extending life expectancies.” 

It said, “If current trends continue, we can expect the global Catholic population to increase by about 372 million from 2015 to 2050. This would represent 29 per cent growth during this period and result in the 2050 Catholic population numbering 1.64 billion.”

Noting that the most important indicators of the vitality of the Church are the number of faithful, the number of parishes and the number of priests, the study noted,  “Since 1980, the Church has had a net gain of nearly 15,300 parishes representing seven per cent growth. However, with the population growing by 57 per cent during this period, there has been a lag in constructing the brick and mortar of the Church.” It added, “In 1980 there were 3,759 Catholics per parish in the world. This figure now stands at 5,491 Catholics per parish.”


The study observed that the fastest growth in the Catholic population occurred in Asia and Africa, noting that since 1980, the number of parishes had doubled. Other areas that saw an uptick were the Americas at 25 per cent and Oceania at five per cent. In Europe however, the number of parishes saw a slide of 12 per cent......