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Posted May 24, 2006

Numbers of Religious Decreasing
Reveals Church's Statistical Yearbook

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The number of religious in Africa and Asia has increased, but not enough to offset decreases in other areas of the world.

The Vatican press office revealed this as they released the newest edition of the "Statistical Yearbook of the Church," covering the years 1978-2004, prepared by the Central Office of Church Statistics, and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The press office also announced that in 2004 there were over 55,000 men religious, not including priests, in the world, and more than 767,000 women religious.

The number of men religious decreased by 27.4% in the span of 26 years, nearly the entire pontificate of Pope John Paul II, from 75,000 in 1978.

Africa reported a 48% increase in the number of male religious and Asia reported a 39% increase.

Europe reported a 46% decrease in the number of male religious, the Americas reported a decrease of 30%, and Oceania reported a decrease of 47%.

Of all male religious in the world, 16.40% reside in Asia, 14.16% in Africa, 30.14% in the Americas, 36.24% in Europe, and 3.06% in Oceania.

The Holy See said the number of women religious has also shown "a strongly decreasing dynamic," with a decrease of nearly 22% worldwide from 990,768 in 1978.

An "increase was decidedly sustained in Africa and Asia: approximately 62% and 64%, respectively," the Holy See stated.

Europe reported a decrease of 39%, the Americas reported a decrease of 27%, and Oceania reported a decrease of 41%.

Of all women religious in the world, 19.64% reside in Asia, 7.49% in Africa, 28% in the Americas, 43% in Europe, and less than 2% in Oceania.