By John Norton
How about some good news for a change?
According to the Vatican’s recently released yearbook (with numbers through the end of 2008), the Catholic Church is growing slowly but surely: the number of Catholics (and their proportion to the world population) is on the rise, and the number of priests and seminarians are up.
The only shadow in the report is that the number of Religious women worldwide is continuing a steady decline despite an explosion of new nuns in Africa and Asia.
So settle back, and let’s look at some of the numbers:
As a percentage of the world population, Catholics have increased, barely, from 17.33 percent to 17.4 percent.
Although a lot of the Church’s growth is happening in Africa and Asia, distribution of the world’s priests is still heavily weighted in Europe (with 47 percent of priests) and America (with 30 percent). But that is gradually changing; in 2000, Europe had 51.5 percent of the world’s priests.
The Americas saw virtually no change. Europe was down 4.3 percent, but increases were registered in Oceania (6.5 percent), Asia (4.4 percent) and Africa (3.6 percent).
As with priests, the worldwide distribution of women Religious is weighted toward Europe (40.9 percent) and the Americas (27.5 percent). That’s also where there’s been the steepest declines; 17.6 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively, since 2000.
But the number of African sisters has grown by 21.2 percent, and Asian sisters by 16.4 percent.
Of course, numbers never tell the whole story, especially where the Holy Spirit is involved. But they can be helpful indicators of important trends.
Did anything here jump out at you as significant? Let me know, and leave other comments, at email@example.com.