A panorama of the Catholic Church all over the world

The latest edition of the “Church’s Book of Statistics” published (updated to 31 December 2016) regarding members of the Church, church structures, healthcare, welfare and education.

To 31 December 2016, the world population was 7.352.289.000 with an increase of 103.348.000 units compared with the previous year. Population growth was registered on every continent including Europe: increases were registered above all in Asia (+49.767.000) and Africa (+42.898.000), followed by America (+8.519.000), Europe (+1.307.000) and Oceania (+857.000).


On the same date, Catholics in the world numbered units with an overall incewase of 14.249.000. The increase affects all continents, except Europe for the third consequetive year (-240.000). Increases were registered above all in Africa (+6.265.000) and in America (+6.023.000) followed by Asia (+1.956.000) and Oceania (+254.000). The world percentage of Catholics decreased by 0.5%, settling at 17.67%. By continent: increases were registered in America (+0.06), Asia (+0.01) and Oceania (+0.02), decrease in Africa (-0.18) and Europe (-0.11).


The total number of Bishops in the world increased by 49 units, to 5,353. Diocesan Bishops and Religious Bishops increased in numbers. Diocesan Bishops number 4,063 (27 more), while Religious Bishops number 1,263 (22 more) The increase in Diocesan Bishops is registered in America (+20), Asia (+9), Europe (+3), while a decrease was registered in Arica (-2) and Oceania (-3). The number of Religious Bishops increased in all continents except Asia (-7), Africa (+5), America (+14), Europe (+8), Oceania (+2).


The total number of priests in the world decreased even this year, to 414.969 (-687). The only continents which registered a major decrease was again Europe (-2.583). There was also a decrease in America (-589). Increases were registered in Afrca (+1.181) and Asia (+1.304), Oceania unvaried. Diocesan Priests increased by 31 units, reaching a total of 281.831 with a decrease only in Europe (-1.611) and increases in Africa (+983), America (+180), Asia (+744) and Oceania (+21). The number of Religious Priests decreased by 1.004 units to a total 133.138. Increases were registered as in recent years in Africa (+198) and in Asia (+560), whereas numbers dropped in America (-769), Europe (-972), Oceania (-21).

Permanent Deacons

Permanent Deacons in the world increased by 1.057 units to 46.312. The highest increase was registered again in America (+842), followed by Europe (+145), Oceania (+45), Africa (+22) and Asia (+3). Permanent Diocesan Deacons in the world are 45.609, with an overall increase of 982 units. They increased on every continent except in Asia (-38), Africa (+36), America (+807), Europe (+130) and Oceania (+47). Religious Permanent Deacons number 703, increased by 75 units compared to the previous year, with decreases in Africa (-14) and Oceania (-2), increases in Asia (+41), America (+35) and Europe (+15).

Religious Men and Women

The number of non-religious priests decreased for the fourth consequetive year by 1.604 units to 52.625. Situation: a decrease was registered in all continents: in Africa (-50), America (-503), Asia (-373), Europe (-614) and Oceania (-64). Even this year there is an overall decrease in the number of religious women by 10.885 units to 659.445. An increase was registered in Africa (+943) and Asia (+533), decrease in America (-3.775), Europe (-8.370) and Oceania (-216).

Members of secular institutes, male and female

Members of male secular institutes number 618 with a decrease of (-79) after an increase compared to the previous year. At a continental level there is an increase in Africa (+2) and Asia (+4), while a decrease in America (-77), and Europe (-8), Oceania unvaried also this year. The members of female secular institutes decreased this year, by 459 units to a total of 22.400 members. There was an increase only in Africa (+113), while a decrease was registered in America (-33), Asia (-35), Europe (-502) and Oceania (-2).

Lay missionaries and Catechists

The number of lay missionaries in the world is 354.743 units, with an overall increase of 2.946 units in particular in America (+4.728) and Africa (+759). A decrease was registered in Asia (-1.569), Europe (-921) and Oceania (-55). Catechists in the world decreased by 36.364 units to a total of 3.086.289. An increase was registered only in Afirca (+10.669). A decrease was registered in America (-20.407), Asia (-12.896), Europe (-13.417) and Oceania (-313).

Catholic schools and Education

In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 72.826 kindergartens with 7.313.370 pupils, 96.573 primary schools with 35.125.124 pupils, 47.862 secondary schools with 19.956.347 pupils. The Church also cares for 2.509.457 high school pupils and 3.049.548 university students.

Catholic charity and healthcare centres

Charity and healthcare centres in the world run by the Church include: 5.287 hospitals,  most of them in America (1.530) and Africa (1.321); 15.937 dispensaries, mainly in Africa (5.177, America (4.430) and Asia (3.300); 610 Care Homes for people with Leprosy, mainly in Asia (352) and Africa (192); 15.722 Homes for the elderly, the chronically ill or people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8.127) and America (3.763); 9.552 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3.660); 11.758 creches, mainly in Europe (5.664) and America (4.984); 3.506 social rehabilitation centres and 35.746 other kinds of institutions.

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