Africa had 130 million Catholics in 2000 and an estimated 236 million today
Was 1.9 million in 1900

2022-02-13T18:48:44-08:00February 14th, 2022|World|

Taking a look at the new set of numbers is instructive.

For one thing, the Annuario notes that Catholicism added 16 million new members in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available. Granted, that meant the church did no more than keep pace with overall global population growth, but it’s still significant at a time when most western perceptions are that the church is shrinking due to the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, various scandals at senior levels, bitter political infighting, increasing irrelevance to younger generations, and any number of other alleged failures.

For sure, if you live in western Europe or in some parts of the United States, where parishes are closing or consolidating and Mass attendance seems in free fall, those perceptions are understandable. Yet the reality is that on a global level, Catholicism enjoyed the greatest expansion in its history over the past century, more than tripling from 267 million in 1900 to 1.045 billion in 2000 and 1.36 billion today.

Consider that 16 million is more than the entire Catholic population of Canada, and the church added that number of new followers in one year alone, Today, Catholics represent a robust 17.7 percent of everyone on earth.

In other words, the dominant Catholic story today is not decline, it’s breakneck growth.

Second, it’s notable that the vast majority of this growth is outside the western sphere. The Catholic population grew in Africa and Asia in 2020, by 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. The share of the world’s Catholics who live in Africa has been climbing steadily over recent decades. Africa alone shot up from 1.9 million in 1900 to 130 million in 2000 and an estimated 236 million today, representing almost twenty percent of the global total….

The above comes from a Feb. 13 article by John Allen in Crux.






  1. Brave New Catholics February 14, 2022 at 9:34 am - Reply

    And many of them practice the faith while under very real threats of death.

  2. anonymous clergyman February 14, 2022 at 11:55 am - Reply

    As previously noted: In a stunning interview, German Cardinal Walter Kasper has said that African Catholics “should not tell us too much what we have to do” and admitted that they are not being listened to at the Vatican’s current synod as it takes up matters including homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, and family life. Kasper has been the main advocate for admitting to communion Catholics who are divorced and remarried—and thus living in what the Church, following the words of Christ himself, considers adultery.
    And, as one German Catholic magazine editor notes, “So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions(of faith). Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.” What a condescending, if not racist, statement.
    So, the “German Church” is telling the world to ignore African Catholics and their bishops, even though the Church in Africa is growing. The Church in Germany is shrinking, yet is wealthy because of a church tax German citizens pay. It’s time to say auf wiedersehen to the German bishops and look to those where the Church is growing.

    • may be wrong February 18, 2022 at 6:50 am - Reply

      I think that he is saying that what works in Africa will not work in Germany.
      I think he may be wrong, too.

      • anonymous clergyman February 19, 2022 at 1:00 pm - Reply

        May be wrong, then, why don’t they try it? We know for a fact that what the German church has been doing for decades has failed and their church has been numerically decimated. If they try doing some of what the African bishops have done, it may not work. But, at least then they’d know two ways of doing things that don’t work. And, would we be surprised if clearly presenting the Gospel, faithfully administering the Sacraments, presenting the fullness of our Faith and morals and inviting people into a relationship with a loving God actually “worked” and their church began to grow again?
        And, we could try that in more places here too. What’ve we got to lose?
        And, everything to possibly gain. God is faithful and is, and will be, with us. May we be faithful to Him.

  3. zcvhs February 14, 2022 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Germans had similar attitudes about other groups of people mid last century….should have quit while they were ahead in the 16th century..

  4. John February 15, 2022 at 6:33 am - Reply

    This report claims there are 286 million Catholics in Europe. Simply delusional.

    • 35% February 15, 2022 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Why so pessimistic? According to Wikipedia, 35% of Europe is Catholic. Seems about right then.

      • John February 18, 2022 at 9:45 am - Reply

        Europe’s 2021 population as 447 million in 2021. 35% of this is 156 million which is a lot less than 286 million. So Wikipedia agrees the Vatican is delusional.

  5. Larry February 15, 2022 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Great news. Would that Cardinal Sarah might one day be Bishop of Rome.

  6. Jim February 15, 2022 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Even as “liberal” as Western Europe claims to be, the racism of colonialism lives on.
    On the plus side, European missionaries planted and spread the Faith in Africa.
    On the negative side, Europe now fears the child that they have raised.
    These children are now educating the parents. The parents do not like these upstart children.
    It is fascinating to watch how the Holy Ghost works.

  7. Prof.Helen March 21, 2022 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    God bless the missionaries – past and present.

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