WASHINGTON (February 7, 2003) -- The number of Permanent Deacons continues to experience a strong and steady increase in most parts of the world. From 1998 to 2001, their number increased by 17% worldwide.
Africa, North and South America, Australia and Oceania, and Europe, all experienced an overall increase in the number of deacons. Only Asia experienced a decrease.
In 2002 there were about 28,000 permanent deacons in the world. Some 13,764 of them are in the United States.
The latest worldwide statistics on the Permanent Diaconate were compiled by the International Diaconate Centre in Rottenburg, Germany. They were released in this country by the Bishops" Committee on the Diaconate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
"The growth of the diaconate around the world is a source of great encouragement for us," said Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Helena, Montana, Chairman of the Bishops" Committee on the Diaconate. "The vision of the Second Vatican Council to present the Church with a fuller sign of the whole sacrament of Holy Orders is being brought to reality, especially in the servant dimension of ministry. On the other hand, the increasing numbers of deacons challenges us to provide them with the best and most comprehensive formation possible to meet the challenges of the Church in the modern world."
Deacon William T. Ditewig, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Diaconate, said the new statistics demonstrate an impressive growth by any measure. "One of the most significant aspects of the findings is how the number of deacons is expanding in many underdeveloped nations of the world," he said.
The study showed that Africa has 361 deacons in 28 countries, up from 331 deacons in 25 countries in 1998, an overall percentage of increase of 9%. South Africa has the largest number of deacons, 217, followed by Numibia, which has 42, and Cameroon, with 18. Reunion has 13 deacons, and Zimbabwe and Egypt each have 12. Most countries in Africa have fewer than 10 deacons.
In the Americas, there are 18,371 deacons in 33 countries, an overall percentage of increase for the Americas of 15% since 1998. The increase in the number of deacons was especially large in Mexico (88%), Paraguay (74%), the Dominican Republic (30%), Ecuador (50%), Brazil (36%), Chile (35%), Cuba (30%), and Venezuela (46%). The rate of increase has remained fairly constant for the United States (10%) and Canada (11%). Increasing numbers of dioceses in Canada are examining the possibility of restoring the permanent diaconate.
Asia had 128 deacons in 23 countries. In 1998 there were 142 deacons in 22 countries, an overall decrease of 14 deacons and a percentage decrease of 10%.
Australia and Oceania had 180 deacons in 16 countries, an overall percentage of increase of 13% since 1998.
In Europe there are 9,198 deacons in 35 countries. In 1998 there were 7,408 deacons in 34 countries. There was no change in the number of deacons in eight countries, an increase in 24 countries, and a decrease in four countries, an overall percentage of increase in Europe of 24%. There re 1,800 deacons in France, an increase of 44%, 2,451 in Germany, an increase of 17%, and 533 in Great Britain, an increase of 33%. The number of deacons in Poland decreased by 59%.
At the point in which the data were collected by the International Diaconate Centre, there were approximately 28,238 deacons serving in 135 countries. Of these deacons, approximately 27,720 are diocesan clergy and approximately 520 are religious. The diocesan clergy are incardinated into 1,300 dioceses or prelatures.
The U.S. Bishops approved the restoration of the permanent diaconate in this country in 1968. The great majority of dioceses either have or are planning formation programs for the future. The diaconate is a ministry of service that extends the apostolic ministry of the bishop throughout the local diocesan church. Deacons work together with priests, religious and laity in Catholic parish and diocesan life, and serve in a wide variety of ministries.