Catholics grow in world, but number of church workers killed up; Ebola takes toll

(Photo: REUTERS / Baz Ratner)A member of the clergy reads from the Bible to Ebola Patients in the recovery wing of the Hastings Ebola treatment centre in a neighbourhood in Freetown December 21, 2014. The rapid response team has arrived and the chaos is easing, but medics in a remote Sierra Leonean district are struggling to control a local Ebola outbreak when it's too late to nip it in the bud. A deployment of medical workers and equipment to Kono District has been the fastest so far in Sierra Leone, a country with nearly half the total Ebola cases,- under a strategy of tackling epidemic hotspots before they get too big. But officials say responses need to be yet faster to fight the fever that has killed more than 7,000 people across West Africa.

The number of Catholics in the world has increased with growth registered across all five continents with the Church continuing to play a key role in health and education services.

The figures from the Fides news agency are in the latest edition of the Church's Book of Statistics updated to 31 December 2012, Vatican Radio reports.

These show that on that date the number of Catholics in the world stood at 1,228,621,000 with an overall increase of more than 15,000,000 compared to the preceding year.

Separately Fides news agency reported that 2014 was a grim year for the number of church workers around the world killed by violence or the deadly Ebola virus.

In its annual report, Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, states that 26 pastoral workers were killed – three more than in the previous year.

For the overall number of Catholics, the Americas and Africa registered the biggest increases in the number of faithful followed by Asia, Europe and Oceania.

The world percentage of Catholics stood at 17.49 percent, a decrease of 0.01 percent compared to the end of 2011.

The total number of priests in the world increased by 895 to 414,313.

Europe once again registered the largest decrease, losing 1,375 followed by the Americas (-90) and Oceania (-80).

In Africa the number of priests grew by 1,076 and in Asia by 1,364.

There was an overall decrease in the number of women religious worldwide, whose numbers dropped by 10,677 to 702,529.

Once again Africa and Asia showed increases whilst Europe and the Americas showed the biggest decrease in the number of women religious.

The number of lay missionaries in the world is 362,488 with an overall decrease of 19,234.


In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 71,188 kindergartens, 95,246 primary schools and 43,783 secondary schools. Charity and healthcare centers in the world run by the church are 115,352.

But life for religious people was often difficult according to Fides, with 17 priests, one religious brother, six religious women, a seminarian and a lay person killed in 2014.

Fides said many were killed during robberies characterized by particular "brutality and ferociousness" indicating they stemmed from intolerance and "economic and cultural poverty."

For the sixth year running, the majority – 14 - were killed in the Americas, followed by Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe. Over the last 10 years (2004-2013) 230 pastoral workers were killed, three of them bishops.

Of those murdered in the Americas, four priests and a seminarian were killed in Mexico; two other priests were murdered in the U.S., one in Canada, and five others and one seminarian in South America.

Many of those killed in Africa succumbed to Ebola, which has infected more than 20,000 people so far this year.

The Prior General of the Hospitallers of St. John of God, Father. Jesus Etayo wrote, 18 of the order's religious and lay workers at Catholic hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone "gave their lives for others like Christ."

The report also recalls the unknown fate of three Assumptionist priests from Congo kidnapped in October 2012 and of Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall'Oglio abducted in Syria in 2013.

Nothing is known either about the fate of Indian Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, kidnapped in June 2014 in Herat, Afghanistan. He was the director of Jesuit Refugee Service in the country.

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