More priests needed as Catholicism witnesses boom in Asia and Africa

Catholic faithful take part in a weekend mass at an underground church in Tianjin, China.Reuters

The number of Catholics in the world is growing so fast that the number of priests who need to serve them could not keep up, according to a new study on worldwide church trends.

According to the Catholic News Agency, this poses a challenge to the Roman Catholic Church. With more and more Catholics being born in Africa and Asia, the number of parishes and priests could not catch up with the growth, which means some Catholics have fewer opportunities to receive the sacraments and participate in the activities in their parishes.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University noted that "the Church still faces a global 21st century problem of keeping Catholics engaged with parish and sacramental life."

The study "Global Catholicism" was drawn from Vatican statistics and other surveys way back in 1980. Its purpose was to give an account of the growth of the Catholic Church in some areas and its decline in other areas to foresee how the church would look like in the next decades.

The study showed that the Catholic Church is in a state of "dramatic realignment" where it is decreasing in power in its historical centre, which is Europe, its growth slowly declining in the US and Oceania while drawing many believers in Asia and Africa.

The study noted that majority of the world's churches are located in Europe and the Americas, where the faith has started to decline and the population has stopped growing. On the other hand, developing countries are rearing more Catholics, but there are not enough parishes to cater to them.

Dr. Mark Gray, senior research associate with CARA, said, "You've got all these beautiful parishes. You can't pick them up and send them from one part of the world to another very easily. So in one place the Church is going to have to close parishes, and in another place it's going to have to build a bunch more, and it's going to have to figure out how to manage its clergy."