The Pontifical Yearbook has published all figures relating to Church life around the world. The volume is published annually and collects together data from the Holy See’s central offices. This year’s figures are of particular interest because they refer to the first year of Francis’ pontificate. He was elected Pope on 13 March 2013. The figures relating to the “official” life of the Church – the legal-institutional aspect that is – include the period that runs from March last year to 22 February 2014. Two new episcopal sees, an eparchy, an apostolic exarchate and an archiepiscopal exarchate were established in this period and a territorial prelature was elevated to the status of diocese.
The data regarding faithful and other members of the Church refer to 2012, so there is a two year gap between that date and the date of publication. The Catholic Church is currently divided into 2981 ecclesiastical districts, dioceses or other kinds of institutions. The number of people who are being baptized is constantly growing. In the period between 2005 and 2012, the number of baptized people around the world rose from 1115 to 1229 million, an increase of 10, 2%.
If we compare this to the world population’s rate of growth in the same period, we see that this has gone from 6, 46 to 7, 02 billion. So Catholic presence in the world has risen slightly, from 17, 3% to 17, 5%. But this growth varied greatly according to geographical area and so the total figure is different.
Europe’s results are the worst. Although it is home to 23% of the world’s Catholic community (2012), it is by far the least dynamic area, with numbers of baptized rising at a meagre rate of just over 2%. The presence of Catholics in the region amounts to about 40%.
Africa is the continent that is witnessing the greatest growth; this probably helps explain the fresh outbreaks of violence against Christians and Catholics by Islamic extremist groups. Globally, Africa is undoubtedly the continent where growth is most notable. The rate at which the number of Africa’s Catholics (almost 199 million in 2012) has risen, is almost double that of Asia (29%) and far higher than the population growth rate in that same period of time.
The balance between continents has changed hugely. The Catholic presence in Africa is stronger (the number of African Catholics has risen from 13, 8% in 2005 to 16, 2% of the total number of the world’s Catholics in 2012). Europe’s Catholics, however, continue to drop in number: from 25, 5% in 2005 their number has fallen to 23, 3% in 2012.
But Asia’s Catholics are also on the rise. Asia accounts for over 60%of the world population and Asian Catholics account for about 11% of the population. 49% of the world’s baptized Catholic population is American, a relative majority. The number of Catholics per a hundred inhabitants in Oceania is stable, accounting for 0, 8% of the global catholic population.