Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s new daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I aim to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: Bl. Karl of Austria.
📜 Today’s readings: Eph 4:1-6 ▪ Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6 ▪ Lk 12:54-59.
🗞 Starting seven
5: A senior Vatican official has told Crux that the provisional agreement with China is due to be renewed on Oct. 22 “with no changes to the terms.”
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences with architect Renzo Piano; Cuban Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, with Bishop Emilio Aranguren Echeverría, Bishop Marcelo Arturo González Amador, Bishop Juan de Dios Hernández Ruiz, Bishop Manuel Hilario de Céspedes y García Menocal, and Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez; Rodrigo Guerra López, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; parliamentarians and mayors from the Diocese of Cambrai, France; participants in the UNIAPAC international congress.
🧐 Look closer
Pandemic year growth The number of Catholics worldwide grew by more than 15 million in the pandemic year of 2020, according to figures shared by the Vatican-based Agenzia Fides to mark World Mission Day on Oct. 23.
The news agency located in the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide noted that on Dec. 31, 2020, there were a total of 1,359,612,000 Catholics, 15,209,000 more than the year before.
The figures, compiled by the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics and drawn from the Statistical Yearbook of the Church (Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae), are a ray of light in an otherwise grim year for the Church, when millions of people were unable to attend Mass due to the spread of COVID-19.
But the growth must be seen in perspective: Catholics accounted for 17.73% of the world’s population in 2020, compared to 17.74% in 2019 — suggesting that rising numbers are due to wider population growth, rather than mass conversions.
More laity, fewer priests According the figures, first highlighted by L’Osservatore Romano in February, Catholic numbers increased in four continents — Africa (+5,290,000), the Americas (+6,463,000), Asia (+2,731,000), and Europe (+734,000) — but decreased in Oceania (-9,000).
The total number of priests fell by 4,117 to 410,219, with drops in Europe (-4,374), the Americas (-1,421), and Oceania (-104), but rises in Africa (+ 1,004) and Asia (+778). The number of Catholics per priest worldwide increased by 69 to 3,314.
There were 5,363 bishops in 2020, just one fewer than the year before. And there were 397 more permanent deacons than in 2019, for a global total of 48,635.
The number of male religious who are not priests also grew, by 274 to 50,569. Women religious continued to diminish, by 10,553 in 2020, to a total of 619,546.
A new era? In his message for World Mission Day 2022, Pope Francis said that “every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ” and that “to evangelize is the very identity of the Church.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities,” he wrote.
The latest figures suggest that his dream is far from being fulfilled. The Church is keeping pace with global trends, but not shaping them.
🤔 Friday quiz
Can you identify these patron saints? (Answers below.)
Of unattractive people.
Of playing card manufacturers
🔍 Stories to watch
🇵🇹 Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has hailed World Youth Day 2023 as “a cultural and civilizational initiative” (Portuguese report).
📅 Coming soon
Oct. 23 World Mission Day.
Oct. 24 French President Emmanuel Macron to meet with Pope Francis.
Oct. 26 Trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen due to resume.
Oct. 27 CCEE online plenary assembly begins.
Friday quiz answers: 1) St. Adjutor; 2) St. Cajetan; 3) St. Bernadino of Siena; 4) St. Columbanus; 5) St. Drogo; 6) St. Balthazar; 7) St. Gertrude of Nivelles.
Have a happy feast of Bl. Karl of Austria.