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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Vatican news agency report is revealing how Africa's Catholic population surge is holding the Church together.
Agenzia Fides, the Vatican's news agency and part of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, released its 2023 Catholic Church Statistics, which documents a decline in most areas of the Church outside of Africa.
According to the latest statistics (updated to December 2021), the number of Catholics in Africa increased by 8,312,000 from the previous year, up to 265,152,000. The Catholic population now accounts for 19.38% of all Africans, up 0.05% from the previous year's recording.
Comparatively, the number of baptized Catholics in the world increased to 1,375,852,000 (an increase of 16,240,000) by the end of 2021, but the Catholic population compared to the world's population fell to 17.67% (a decrease of 0.06%).
There are now 51,983 priests in Africa, up 1,518 from the previous year, while the number of priests in the world decreased by 2,347 to 407,872. While America, Europe and Oceania saw priest numbers plummet, the number of priests in Asia also increased by 719.
Both Africa and Asia also saw increases in men and women religious, while America, Europe and Oceania saw declines. Out of the world's 49,774 male religious members (down 795 from the previous year), Africa accounted for 9,393 (an increase of 205), while Asia boasted 12,629 (an increase of 25). As of Dec. 31, 2021, there were 608,958 women religious recorded (a decrease of 10,588). Africa maintained 81,832 (an increase of 2,275) and Asia had 175,494 (an increase of 366).
Africa was the only region to grow in the number of major seminarians. The total number of major seminarians documented was 109,895 (a decrease of 1,960), with 33,815 coming from Africa (an increase of 187). The southern continent was also the only listed region to grow in minor seminarians. Out of the 95,714 men in minor seminaries (an increase of 316), 54,464 were from Africa (an increase of 2,053).
All five regions grew in the number of permanent deacons. Of the 49,176 permanent deacons recorded (an increase of 541), 498 were Africans (an increase of 59). America and Europe saw higher numbers, with 32,373 (an increase of 147) and 15,438 (an increase of 268), respectively.
While Africans are leading the way in evangelization, the continent boasts only 29 cardinals, 19 of whom are still electors in the College of Cardinals. There are 241 cardinals in all (111 from Europe), with 136 being current electors.
Africa is also known for high rates of Christian persecution within some of its countries. It was reported that from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022, Nigeria accounted for nearly 90% of Christian martyrs worldwide.