Just The Facts

Next: An African Pope?

Where is the Catholic Church growing? When will the Vatican hierarchy lose its European/Western bent?

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  • 16% of Catholics worldwide live in Africa, where the population is growing fast.
  • DR Congo has the 10th largest national Catholic population in the world.
  • Europe's Roman Catholic population is shrinking but 24% of all Catholics still live in Europe.

1. The global Catholic population reached 1.196 billion at the end of 2010 (the latest year for which complete data are available).

2. Africa now has 186 million Catholics.

3. Sub-Saharan Africa alone had just over 171 million Catholics in 2010, or about 16% of the world total.

4. Africa’s share of Catholics worldwide is four percentage points larger than Asia’s share.

5. Europe, the home of Roman Catholicism, still accounts for a larger share of the world total, at nearly 24%.

6. However, the number of Catholics in Sub-Saharan Africa is set to rise considerably, as the region’s population is expected to double by 2040.

7. In contrast, population growth in traditionally Catholic nations such as Argentina, Poland and Spain has come to a near standstill.

8. The Democratic Republic of Congo boasts the largest Catholic community in Africa, with about 31 million members.

9. That makes the Democratic Republic of Congo the 10th largest national Catholic community in the world.

Sources: The Globalist Research Center, Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project and
“African Papacy Claim Rests on Growth” by Xan Rice (Financial Times)



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