The Statistical Yearbook unveiled by the Vatican on Thursday revealed that the number of candidates for the priesthood in Europe fell by 3.6% between 2011 and 2013. The countries showing the largest decline in candidacies are the Czech Republic (-13%), the UK (-11.5%), Austria (-10.9%) and Poland (-10%). Belgium, however, has seen its priestly vocations up 7.5%. Belgium, along with, to a lesser extent, Ukraine (+ 4.5%) and Italy (+ 0.3%), are the only European countries to show an increase in the number of seminarians. In Flanders, numbers have been stable since 2010.
Worldwide, students to the priesthood numbered 118,251 in 2013 compared to 120,616 in 2011, a drop of 2%. In South America, they were down 10%. The priesthood is considered particularly unattractive in Chile and Peru (11.2% drop) and Colombia (-10.5%). Even in Brazil, traditionally the biggest ‘provider’ of priests, offerings were down 6.7%.
The only increase in candidates for the priesthood was on the African continent which showed an increase in numbers of 1.5%.
At the end of 2013 there were 415,348 priests worldwide and 1.254 billion Catholics.