VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Catholic missions are struggling amid dwindling vocations and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released by the Vatican ahead of the World Mission Day this Sunday (Oct. 18).

The number of priests and ordained leaders has dropped significantly, especially in Europe and America, according to the report issued on Friday by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, charged with distributing clergy and coordinating missions around the world.

The total number of priests in the world decreased to 414,065 in 2018, with Europe registering a drop of 2,675 priests compared to 2017. The report also reveals a slight decrease in the number of Catholic faithful in America, Europe and Oceania. Meanwhile, Africa and Asia continue to show signs of growth,

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