Rorate Caeli

Vatican releases latest worldwide Catholic statistics:
Decrease in the overall share of Catholics in the world population. Fall in priests, seminarians and religious continues unabated

The Vatican Bollettino for June 13, 2018 has a report (only in Italian as of this writing) about the publication of the Pontifical Yearbook for 2018 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2016, containing the statistics for the Catholic Church worldwide as of the end of the year 2016. 

The earliest reports appearing on the Catholic media about this report focus on the increase in the absolute number of baptized Catholics from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016 -- from 1,285,000,000 to 1,299,000,000. The Bollettino's actual report however has the sobering observation that the increase in Catholics from 2015 to 2016 is lower than the annual increase recorded in the period from 2010 to 2015. Additionally, the rate of growth of the worldwide Catholic population is slower than that of the world's population as a whole, with the result that the percentage of Catholics in the world population dropped from 17.73 % in 2015 to 17.67 in 2016. 

When it comes to priests, the trend of diminishment since 2014 is confirmed: there were 414,969 Catholic priests in the whole world as of the end of 2016, compared to 415,656 priests in 2015 and  415,792 in 2014.

The decline of vocations continues: according to the Annuarium Statisticum for 2016 there were 116,160 seminarians worldwide as of the end of that year, down from 116,843 at the end of 2015. As Rorate reported in 2016 the worldwide decline in vocations started once again in 2012 (120,051 seminarians at the end of that year) from a high of 120,616 at the end of 2011. However the decline accelerated from 2013 onwards (118,251 by end of 2013, 116,939 by end of 2014, and then the figures for 2015 and 2016 reported above.)

As for women religious, they numbered 659,000 as of the end of 2016 (the Bollettino's summary does not give a more precise number). In contrast there were 670,320 just a year before, at the end of 2015. And there were 721,935 only 6 years before, at the end of 2010. (Please see our 2017 report for more details and links.)

A Rorate reminder: a disproportionate number of priests and religious in Europe and North America (especially in Quebec and the USA) are in their twilight years -- late 70's, 80's, 90's. They are the last survivors of the generations ordained or professed before or during the years of Vatican II, generations that have never really been replaced in the era after 1965. As most of them go to meet their eternal reward in the next 10-15 years, the dive in the numbers of priests and religious will become even more catastrophic.

Speaking of the USA: it was reported only a few weeks ago that in the United States itself there has been a major dive in candidates for ordination: from 595 in 2015, 548 in 2016 and 590 in 2017 there were only 430 in 2018. (Some writers have mistaken these numbers for actual ordinations; these were only for potential ordinands per year, which means that actual ordinations could be much and often much less. For example, while there were 590 potential ordinands in 2017, the updated statistics chart of the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate contends that there were in fact only 504 priestly ordinations in that year; while in 2015 there were 515 priests actually ordained out of the 595 potential ordinands that year. If these trends continue there might be fewer than 400 new priests in the USA this year.)


For more detailed statistics on previous years, see our 2017 post: Latest statistics: seminarians down in the USA and the world, priests worldwide in decline, catastrophic decline in women religious. Will vocations survive the new Bergoglian priestly formation document?