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Pope’s Visit Renewed Focus on the Growing Role of African Catholics

Africa is home to nearly 20% of the world’s Catholics — 236 million of the 1.36 billion Catholics worldwide. And the church is growing faster here than it is anywhere else in the world. Recent statistics show that it grew 2.1% between 2019 and 2020, compared to just 0.3% in Europe. The decline in young men entering seminaries in the northern hemisphere means that many of the world’s Catholic priests will soon be of African descent. This fact alone is changing the face of global Catholicism from a church of the north, with European missionaries, to a church of the south made up mainly of missionaries from regions like Africa. Francis has often spoken about the African church being given more of a voice in the church and in the world. He has visited the continent at an important moment in the history of global Catholicism when he seeks to listen more closely to those on the margins. In 2021, he embarked upon an ambitious global consultation in the Catholic Church called “The Synod on Synodality”.