Statistics: catholics world wide and in Ireland

The Pontifical Yearbook 2017 and the “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae” 2015

Released on 06.04.2017

Data to 2015. Comparisons from 2010.

Over 2,400 pages. 1350 grms. List price €78.00

Announcement: English:

(“America” in these documents refers not to USA but to all the Americas: South, Central and North.)

See also:


Total Catholics: Millions: 89 million increase since 2010.
Largest increase in Africa. Europe, with almost static population, decreased since 2014.

                            2010          2014         2015         

Totals                    1,196           1,272        1,285        2010 + 7.4%; 2014 +1%

Africa                       186                               222            + 19.4%

Europe                    285.2        287.3          286            2010 + 800,000; 2014 -1.3m

Americas                                                                     +6.7% (49% of all Catholics)

Asia                                                                              +9.1%

Oceania                                                                        Stable


As percentage of total population:
Highest percentage is in the americas.

Asia                  3.2%

Americas        73.7%

Africa               19.4%

Oceania          26.4%

Europe             39.9%


Top ten countries by numbers of Catholics:  Millions

1           Brazil                                                  172.2

2           Mexico                                              110.9

3           Philippines                                        86.3

4           USA                                                    72.3

5           Italy                                                    58.0

6           France                                               48.3

7           Colombia                                          45.3

8           Spain                                                 43.3

9           Dem. Rep. Of Congo                     43.2

10        Argentina                                         40.8


Priests in the world

2010                 2015                  Increase of 0.83%.

412,236          415 656


Africa               + 17.4%

Asia                  +13.3%

Americas        +0.35%

Europe             -5.8%

Oceania          -2.0%

Number of Catholics per priest.
The Americas, with 49% of all Catholics, have lowest proportion of priests.

World               2,900

Americas        More than 5,000

Europe             1595                                Decreasing

Asia                  2185

Africa               5000


Bishops: 5304

Permanent deacons: 45,255 (98% in Europe & Americas)


Major seminarians per million Catholics.
Asia far outpaces all others.

                           2010      2015

World               99.5         90.9

Africa                                 130.6        + 7.7%

Americas                          56.3           – 8.1%

Europe                               65               – 9.7%

Oceania                                                – 6.9%

Asia                                    245.7


Ireland Census 2016

Summary Results Part 1, released 6 April2017


Table 8.1 Population by religion, 2011 and 2016

Religion                          2011                 2016             % change


Roman Catholic               3,861.3             3,729.1            -3.4

Church of Ireland               129.0                126.4            -2.0

Muslim (Islamic)                  49.2                 63.4            28.9

Orthodox                                45.2                  62.2            37.5

Christian                                 41.2                  37.4            -9.1

Presbyterian                           24.6                  24.2           -1.6

Hindu                                       10.7                 14.3            34.1

Apostolic or Pentecostal       14.0                 13.4          -4.9

Other                                        70.2                 97.7           39.1

No religion                             269.8               468.4         73.6

Not stated                                 72.9                125.3         71.8

Total                                  4,588.3           4,761.9        3.8


92.51% of those who identified as Catholic gave their “broad nationality” as Irish.
In April 2016, persons born abroad accounted for 17.3 per cent of the population.
The proportion of the population who are not Irish nationals is 11.6%.

Those with no religion now account for 9.8% of the population: the largest group after Catholic.
Nothing to indicate how many of these formerly identified with a religion.
Those who did not state a religion are 2.6%.

Together, those with no religion or who did not state a religion are now about 1 in 8 of the population.


Data for Dublin, added by Padraig McCarthy

Ages  2014 2030
Diocesan Religious Diocesan Religious
35-40 3 3
40-45 13 6 5 0
45-50 23 13 5 0
55-60 35 7 12 5
60-65 52 15 19 10
65-70 48 35 39 10
70-75 49 30 28 6
75-80 19 14 34 9
Totals 295 124 149 43
Totals 419 192

Similar Posts


  1. Excellent article, Padraig.
    I wonder what the rate of seminarians per million of the population is here in Ireland?
    Given we have a Catholic population of 3.86m and maybe 70 seminarians. Maybe someone who is better than I am at the Maths could provide the answer?

  2. Pat Rogers says:

    Thanks again Padraig for another very useful piece of research. Those statistics are of course very thought provoking. Perhaps as a supplement you might be able to list the number of Catholics in Ireland per each diocesan priest. And another statistic would be helpful : how many Catholics per priest among those clergy who are working in parishes including religious order priests. And the age profile of those priests who are still active in Ministry would be useful to see.

  3. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Thanks, Francis @1 & Pat @2. I’ll try to dig up some of that information, if it’s available.

    There’s an interesting article by Philip Jenkins well worth reading in the Catholic Herald in 2016:

    He wrote:
    “Critics keep announcing the Church’s imminent demise. If only they realised that numbers have doubled since 1970 – and are still rising.”

    “In 1900, there were three Europeans for every African. By 2050, there will be three Africans for every European. But this expansion (the phenomenal growth in Christianity) is also, clearly, the result of mass conversions. During the 20th century, some 40 per cent of Africa’s people shifted their allegiance from older primal faiths to Christianity. Although Catholics do not represent the whole of this African story, they are a very significant part of it. In 1900, the whole of Africa had just a couple of million Catholics, but that number grew to 130 million by the end of the century, and today it approaches 200 million.”

    Jenkins finishes with a quotation from Mark Twain (Following the Equator, Ch XIV, Vol II):
    “In this world we have seen the Roman Catholic power dying … for many centuries. Many a time we have gotten all ready for the funeral and found it postponed again, on account of the weather or something … Apparently one of the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion.”

    Philip Jenkins was born in Wales, studied at Cambridge, won Mastermind, and is now Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University in the United States, in the Institute for Studies of Religion. As far as I can find (from Wikipedia!) he was raised Catholic and is now Episcopalian.

    He has a remarkable output. Do an internet search. Well worth reading are:
    The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East Africa and Asia – and how it died.
    The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.
    Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis.

  4. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    The leaders of Catholicism paint a picture for us. They see the planet as an oasis where care for our common home and all of mankind is in the forefront of thought. When will the artists become architects? Is this the question that needs answering?

    The End Of The Machine:
    I can barely breathe this air.
    My 20/20 is failing me
    For what I see is unfair.
    In a world that’s bent on consequence
    Lost between truth and what makes sense
    The sounds of evolution
    As the end of the machine creeps near.
    A round cog turns,
    A lesson to be learned:
    Our time was never meant to be earned.
    Can you hear a revolution?
    The end of the machine is here.

  5. Apropos the intelligent writings of Philip Jenkins,(@3), I was rather impressed by the examples of Jenkins’ smooth agnosticism, in a critique by Alan Jacobs (March 2009):

    Where Jenkins applauds Asian Christians for seeing the adherents of other faiths, not as rivals but as “fellow seekers for enlightenment”, Alan Jacobs insists that the quest of the Christian is not so much for enlightenment as for the love of God and neighbor and for reconciliation with God. Rather sharply he says, “Yes, if you choose to voyage along the road to enlightenment, you can get along swimmingly with your Buddhist neighbors. But you will have ceased to practice Christianity and begun to practice Buddhism or something very like it.

  6. #5 So we should prefer not to get along ‘swimmingly’ with our Buddhist neighbours – and drop the Christian obligation to love our neighbour as ourselves? And oppose ‘enlightenment’ to ‘love’, despite the prologue to the Gospel of John and Jesus’ title ‘the light of the World’?

    Daftly false dualistic antitheses abound in all competitive religion, always a matter of the seeking of an ascendancy – the very opposite of what Jesus did. Thanks for warning us about Alan Jacobs.

  7. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Pat Rogers @5:
    Yes, there are times when I feel Philip Jenkins is tempted to the ultracrepidarian – to make statements beyond his field of competence. (“Ne sutor ultra crepidam” – let the shoemaker not go beyond the sandal.) He is very good, I think, on history and history of religion, but not so well versed in the finer points of theology.

    On the other hand, I confess I am not as well versed as I would like to be in the theology of inter-faith relationships. The Catholic church has at times perhaps been over-protective and timorous in these matters. I wonder perhaps is Alan Jacobs somewhat too protective in his comments. I must again look out Dermot Lane’s 2011 book: “Stepping Stones to other Religions: A Christian Theology of Interreligious Dialogue”, if I can find it. On p.182 he wrote: “We must face the possibility, with fear and trembling, that we could be the ones who stifle the Spirit – stifle him through that pride of “knowing better”, that inertia of the heart, that cowardice, that unteachableness with which we react to fresh impulses and new pressures in the Church.” How do we learn to recognise the action of the Spirit in other peoples and faiths, and what are we called to do about it? It’s a major challenge. I think of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, and with the Syro-Phoenician woman; and Peter with Cornelius.

    Where Philip Jenkins offers his expertise in his own area, it seems to me he has a tremendous lot to offer. On the numbers, the Pew Research Center gives a similar picture in 2013: “Over the past century, the number of Catholics around the globe has more than tripled, from an estimated 291 million in 1910 to nearly 1.1 billion as of 2010, according to a comprehensive demographic study by the Pew Research Center. But over the same period, the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly. As a result, Catholics have made up a remarkably stable share of all people on Earth.”

    When it comes to theological interfaith matters, we may need to look further.

  8. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Francis @1 & Pat @2:
    I do not have the number of religious priests or of major seminarians.

    The maximum number of diocesan priests was in 1967/68:

    Census 1966:
    Population 2,884,002. Diocesan priests 3958.
    Population per priest: 729.

    Census 2011:
    Population 4,588,252. Diocesan priests 2050
    Population per priest: 2238.

    The following statistics are for Dublin Diocese only.
    Is the age profile in your diocese is similar?

    Towers Watson Report 2015:
    Priests serving in Dublin Diocese

    Ages….. …..2014….. ….. ……….2030
    40-45…..13….. .6…….|……5…. …….0
    45-50…..23….. …13……|……5….. ….0
    50-55…..53….. …11……|….7….. ….3
    55-60…..35……..….7……..|…12….. ….5
    60-65…..52….. …15……|…19….. …10
    65-70…..48….. …25……|…39….. …10
    70-75…..49……..…30……|…28….. ….6
    75-80…..19……..…14……|…..34….. ….9


    Totals… …….419… ………|………192

    2030: 120+35 = 155 over 60.
    37 under 60
    If one ordination per year for 30 years:
    Total 67 in 2045

  9. Joe O'Leary says:

    Buddhism is based on two inseparable pillars, Wisdom and Compassion. Heinrich Dumoulin repeated this often, rueing that when consulted for Nostra Aetate he had stressed the first, forgetting the second.

  10. Padraig McCarthy says:

    @8: The data for Dublin didn’t come out right.
    See is this any easier to follow?!

    Ages….. …..2014….. ….. ……….2030
    40-45…..13….. …..6…..~…..5…. ……..0
    45-50…..23….. …13…..~…..5….. …….0
    50-55…..53….. …11…..~…..7….. …….3
    55-60…..35……….7……~…..12….. …..5
    60-65…..52….. …15…..~…..19….. …10
    65-70…..48….. …25…..~…..39….. …10
    70-75…..49………30…..~…..28….. …..6
    75-80…..19………14…..~…..34….. …..9
    Totals… …….419… …….~……..192
    Ah! That’s a bit better.
    Computers can be awkward!

  11. @7 Padraig,
    I found myself being enlightened when you wrote that the number of Catholics in the world has remained relative to the world’s population.
    What are we to make from this? That our missionary efforts are keeping pace with current numbers of the population? or maybe no matter what happens in Rome, those who are going to become Catholics will do so, while those who wish to reject or renounce the Catholic faith will also do so?
    The mind boggles!

  12. Padraig McCarthy says:


    CSO Census 2016 Report on Marriages and Civil Partnerships
    Page 1:
    Total: 22,626
    Opposite Sex Marriages: 21,570 (95.33%)
    Same Sex Marriages: 1,056 (4.67%)

    Full Report, Table 13, on page 15:
    Marriages of opposite sex couples celebrated in each county and city during 2016 classified by form of ceremony:
    Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Spiritualist Union of Ireland, Other religious denominations, Civil marriages, Humanist Association.
    State Total: 21,570/366 – average 58.93 per day!
    Religious: 64.8%
    Catholic: 12,140 (56.28%)
    Civil Marriages: 5,588 (25.91%)

    Leinster: 10,921
    Catholic: 5,007 (45.85%)
    Civil: 3,388 (31.02%)
    Within Leinster: Dublin City: 2,602
    Catholic: 559; (21.48%)
    Civil: 1,708 (65.64%)
    Only in Dublin City, Cork City and Waterford City does the number of Civil marriages exceed the number of Catholic ceremonies.
    Is the location of a State Registry office for solemnisation a factor in these numbers?

    Munster: 6,037
    Catholic: 3,939 (65.25%)
    Civil: 1,283 (21.25%)

    Connacht: 2,775
    Catholic: 1,973 (71.1%)
    Civil: 541 (19.5%)

    Ulster (part of): 1,837
    Catholic: 1,221 (61.02%)
    Civil: 376 (20.47%)

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.