(Source: CD/Fides)

As every year ahead of World Mission Day – which this year celebrates its 94th anniversary on Sunday, October 18 – the Fides news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples has published a statistical panorama of the missionary Church all over the world.

The figures are taken from the latest edition of the Church’s book of statistics updated to December 31, 2018, and take in everything from the number of Catholics globally to the numbers behind the Church’s worldwide involvement in healthcare, welfare and education.

On December 31, 2018, the world population was 7,496,394,000, up 88,020,000 people compared to the previous year.

On the same date, Catholics in the world numbered 1,328,993,000 faithful, with an overall increase of 15,716,000 compared to 2016 figures. The increase was felt across all continents. The world percentage of Catholics remains unchanged, at 17.73% of the global population.

The total number of bishops in the world decreased by 12, to 5,377. Diocesan bishops increased (+6 on 2016 Church numbers) and religious bishops decreased (-18).

The total number of priests in the world also decreased on 2016 numbers, to 414,065 (-517). The continent which registered the biggest drop was again Europe (-2,675), along with America (-104). Increases were registered in Africa (+1,391), Asia (+823) and Oceania (+48).

The number of non-religious priests decreased for the sixth consecutive year, by 594, to 50,941. Decreases were registered in Europe (-591), America (-290) and Oceania (-17), but there were increases in Africa (+217) and Asia (+87).

Also compared to 2016 there was an overall decrease in the number of women religious, by 7.249 sisters, to a total of 641.661. Increases were once again registered in Africa (+2,220) and in Asia (+1,218), while numbers of women religious dropped in Europe (-7,167), America (-3,253) and Oceania (–267).

The number of lay missionaries in the world is 376,188, with an overall increase of 20,388. Increases were registered in Europe (+128), America (+8.129) and Asia (+12.433), and decreases in Oceania (-12) and in Africa (-290).

Catechists in the world decreased by 43,697 in 2018, to a total of 3,076,624. Decreases were registered in America (-40,846), Europe (-9,418) and Oceania (-321), while gains were felt in Africa (+5,133) and in Asia (+1,755).

The number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious, increased from 2016 by 552 globally, reaching a total of 115,880. Increases were registered in Africa (+964), in Asia (+354) and in Oceania (+52), while losses were felt in Europe (-696) and in America (-122).

The total number of minor seminarians, diocesan and religious, again decreased for the third consecutive year, by 617, to 100,164. There was an overall decrease across all continents except for Asia (+340): in America (-529), Africa (-226), Europe (-169) and in Oceania (-33).

In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 73,164 kindergartens with 7,376,858 pupils; 103,146 primary schools with 35,011,999 pupils; and 49,541 secondary schools with 19,307,298 pupils. The Church also teaches 3,707,559 university students.

Charity and healthcare centres run globally by the Church include 5,192 hospitals, 15,481 dispensaries, 577 care homes for people with Hansen’s disease, 15,423 homes for the elderly or chronically ill or people with a disability, 9,295 orphanages, 10,747 creches, 12,515 marriage counselling centres, 3,225 social rehabilitation centres and 31,091 other kinds of institutions.

The ecclesiastical circumscriptions dependent on the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples are 1,119 in number. Most of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions entrusted to Propaganda Fide are in Africa (516) and in Asia (484), followed by America (73) and Oceania (46).

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.