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Catholic growth rates widen between Asia and Europe

Figures are now starting to diverge sharply

<p>Catholic devotees attend Mass in Manila, Philippines (AFP/Noel Celis)</p>

Catholic devotees attend Mass in Manila, Philippines (AFP/Noel Celis)

  • Alessandro Speciale,Vatican City
  • International
  • May 14, 2013
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Catholicism is spreading faster in Asia and Africa than anywhere else in the world, according to comparative data released yesterday by the Vatican that shows it stagnating and even declining in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.

Statistics show that the growth of Catholics in Asia greatly outpaces that of the general population. Between 2010 and 2011 the region witnessed a two percent increase in growth, compared to 1.2 percent of the global population. Similar figures were recorded in Africa, while in the rest of the world Catholics' ranks expanded in line with population growth.

The Americas remain the most populous region for Catholics, accounting for slightly less than half the global population.

The growth trend of the Church in Asia and Africa is also reflected in the number of priests and seminarians. While in Europe they have declined by almost 10 percent in the past decade, in Africa the numbers are up 39.5 percent since 2000, and 32 percent in Asia.

This trend may accelerate in the coming years, particularly as candidates to the priesthood become increasingly scarce in Europe and the Americas. Asia and Africa on the other hand now account for almost one in four potential future priests in the world, compared to one in six a decade ago.

The picture is different for females in the Church. The ranks of nuns have shrunk by almost 10 percent from 2001, with just 713,000 in 2011 compared to 792,000 ten years earlier. The decline is sharp in Europe, Oceania and the Americas, but even the quick growth in Asia and Africa has not been able to offset the trend.

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