Number of Diocesan Priests Going Up

Newest Edition of Statistical Yearbook Released

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By Patricia Navas

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009 ( The number of diocesan priests has grown in recent years, unlike the number of priests in religious congregations.

This is one statistic to be found in the most recent edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, published in one volume in Latin, English and French. The yearbook actually covers a seven-year span, from 2000 to 2007.

The number of diocesan priests went up 2.5% in that time, increasing from 265,781 to 272,431. The number of religious priests decreased by about that same percentage, such that there were just more than 135,000 in 2007. The American continent accounts for a decrease of 3,000 religious priests.

Speaking of percentages, only in Europe is the number of priests clearly in decline. There they went from representing 51% of the worldwide total to 48%. Nevertheless, in some countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland, the number of priests is markedly growing.

Italy, France and Spain still have about half of all European priests, and of these, almost half are in Italy.

Asia and Africa continues to see an increase in the number of priests. In Africa, about half come from just four countries: Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

America and Oceania are holding about stable in their numbers. America has just less than 30% of the worldwide population of priests, while Oceania has less than 1%.

The number of permanent deacons saw a marked increase from 2000 to 2007, with 29% more, bringing their number to 35,942.


The number of men religious who are not priests has also gone down slightly, decreasing from 55,057 to 54,956. By continents, this decrease is seen in Europe (a decrease of 13.82%) and in Oceania (a decrease of 15.8%), though in America the numbers have maintained steady and in Asia and Africa, there has been an increase of 31.10% and 9.16%, respectively.

Still, the number of men religious in Europe continues to represent 34% of the worldwide number, with notable increases in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and Austria.

Women religious, meanwhile, decreased in number by about 50,000 during that seven-year span, bringing their total number worldwide to approximately 750,000. Almost 42% of those reside in Europe, with the majority in France, Spain and Italy.


The number of priests promises to continue to grow, given that the number of seminarians also went up from 2000 to 2007. The number of those studying for the priesthood increased by some 4.8%, reaching 116,000. This growth is particularly thanks again to Africa and Asia, where the number went up 21.32% and 20.35%, respectively. Nigeria, Congo, India and the Philippines had particularly notable growth.

In Europe, on the other hand, the number of seminarians is on the decline, going down 17%. A notable decrease occurred in Spain and Belgium, but also in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia).

Catholics continue to represent about 17% of the world population; in 2007, there were 1.147 billion baptized Catholics, up from 1.045 billion in 2000.

Europe is about 40% Catholic, though the number of the baptized there increased only a bit more than 1%.

In America and Oceania, the increase in the number of Catholics was less than overall population growth. The opposite was true in Asia and Africa.

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