I thought I’d give folks something a little different today – the new Annuarium Pontificium was presented in Rome, giving the status of the Church today in (official) numbers. We now number over 1.1 billion baptized members on the planet. There are another 1.1 billion Christians: Protestant, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox.
The other worshipers of the God of Abraham are 1.6 billion Muslims of various sects, with Sunni being the majority, and 14 million Jews. But an astounding 1.1 billion people have NO religious affiliation whatsoever. However, this does not mean that they are all atheist – a surprisingly large number of such folks believe in God or a spiritual “force” or “power” but don’t affiliate with any of the Abrahamic religions. But can you guess which nation is expected to have the largest Christian population in 10 years? Go ahead, guess.
It will definitely be a surprise, but then the Holy Spirit is into surprises – like a virgin conceiving God’s Son and Jewish fishermen launching a world religion.
The biggest Christian nation in 2025 is predicted to be …. well, look at Catholic statistics first, then I’ll drop the bomb.
Presentation of the Annuarium Pontificium
Vatican City, 16 April 2015 (VIS) – The Annuarium Pontificium 2015 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2013 have been issued this morning. The former reveals some new aspects of the life of the Church that have emerged between February 2014 and February 2015, and the latter illustrates the changes that took place in 2013.
The statistics referring to the year 2013, show the dynamics of the Catholic Church in the world’s 2,989 ecclesiastical circumscriptions.
Since 2005, the number of Catholics worldwide has increased from 1,115 million to 1,254 million, an increase of 139 million faithful. During the last two years, the presence of baptised Catholics in the world has increased from 17.3% to 17.7%.
There has been a 34% increase in Catholics in Africa, which has experienced a population increase of 1.9% between 2005 and 2013. The increase of Catholics in Asia (3.2% in 2013, compared to 2.9% in 2005) has been higher than that of population growth in Asia. In the Americas Catholics continue to represent 63% of a growing population. In Europe, where the population is stagnant, there has been a slight increase in the number of baptized faithful in recent years. The percentage of baptized Catholics in Oceania remains stable although in a declining population.
From 2012 to 2013 the number of bishops has increased by 40 from 5,133 to 5,173. In North America and Oceania there has been a reduction of 6 and 5 bishops respectively, in contrast to an increase of 23 in the rest of the American continent, 5 in Africa, 14 in Asia and 9 in Europe.
The number of priests, diocesan and religious, increased from 414,313 in 2012 to 415,348 in 2013.
Candidates to the priesthood – diocesan and religious – dropped from 120,616 in 2011 to 118,251 in 2013 (-2%). An increase of 1.5% is recorded in Africa, compared to a decrease of 0.5% in Asia, 3.6% in Europe and 5.2% in North America.
The number of permanent deacons continues to grow well, passing from 33,391 in 2005 to 43,000 in 2013. They are present in North America and Europe in particular (96.7%), with the remaining 2.4% distributed between Africa, Asia and Oceania.
The number of professed religious other than priests has grown by 1%, from 54,708 in 2005 to 55,000 in 2013. They have increased in number in Africa by 6% and Asia by 30%, and decreased in America (2,8%), Europe (10.9%) and Oceania (2%). The significant reduction in women religious is affirmed: currently 693,575 compared to 760,529 in 2005: -18.3% in Europe, -17.1 % in Oceania, and -15.5 in America. However, an increase of 18% in Africa and 10% in Asia is recorded.
And now for the biggest concentration of Christians in one nation in 10 years:
The People’s Republic of China.
Fenggang Yang of Purdue University estimates that China’s Protestant and Catholic population now stands at about 67 million, but is expected to double to 130 million in 2025 and and 247 million by 2030, while our American Christian population is going into decline. Things can change quickly in China: there has been an aggressive campaign against crosses in the city of Wenzhou and all of Zhejiang province. Claiming the need to eliminate “illegal structures”, nearly 400 churches were attacked in the span of a year, with many losing their crosses and others being totally demolished. Beijing seems to have stopped that particular campaign, which has backfired since Christians did not back down and public feeling swung to their side as destruction continued. But even with such vagaries, Yang feels that the upward trend is going to continue, and Chinese Christians will continue to gain converts in a society where people are seriously searching for meaning in their lives.
Destruction of the enormous Sanjiang Church, Wenzhou, one year ago
After the Cultural Revolution, outsiders expected that Chinese Christianity had been obliterated due to the ten year frenzy of persecution. Instead, both Catholics and Protestants emerged, carefully and slowly but more and more. Unregistered Protestant and Catholic churches continue to exist, and registered churches continue to report converts. As Christianity is being stepped on by Western secularists, how ironic that Chinese Communists are seeing such an explosive growth!
Easter Sunday Mass in Beijing