Preliminary comments

How many countries are there in the world? It’s not easy to answer this question. First of all, what does the concept of “country” indicate? Considering this subject in more detail, the General Council noted that there were many differences in the officially-agreed upon figures. While the UN recognizes 193 countries in the world, the International Olympic Committee has 206, while FIFA (for football lovers), lists 211 countries. Some observers consider that the UN list is “artificial”, since it does not match specific territorial boundaries, and they estimate that in fact there are 324 countries across the world! So this number varies according to the political or social criteria used by each organisation to define what a “country” or a “nation” is. Views differ in this field. Each of the lists available has benefits and disadvantages. But they are drawn up according to criteria appropriate to each organisation.

Since none of these lists fully satisfies the needs of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (using the UN criteria for instance, several of our territories are simply not recognized), General Council has decided not to follow existing lists of countries, but instead will develop its own Vincentian list of countries.

The countries or nations that we will refer to as “Vincentian territories”, for the purpose of clarity, are those Vincentian areas which have been formed over time for reasons of history, culture and the development of the association in the country concerned. So the “Vincentian territory” does not always match the “national territory”.

Updating statistics

There is a second problem as regards our association. Statistics have been somewhat neglected in recent years. The figures provided were approximate, and were not examined in detail.

Our 16th President General, Renato Lima de Oliveira, wants to clarify the situation and review all the data.

The full list of “Vincentian territories”, as you will see, has therefore been drawn up with great care, based on the latest information provided by our 12 Regional Vice-Presidents who are responsible for the various regions.

The General Council attempts to update its data on a regular basis (as required by our Rule). We also do this in order to maintain “an accurate picture of the true scale of the Society” (article 6.2.2 of the International Statutes).

Our organisation therefore has a presence today on all 5 continents, in 149 Vincentian regions  (figures for December 2018) and 138 UN countries. Here are the numbers for each continent:

Continents Vincentian Regions
Africa 40
America 36
Asia 32
Europe 31
Oceania 10

To see the full list, click on the link:

Remarkable growth

Ever since the Holy Spirit inspired our seven founders to establish the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in 1833, our association has grown continually:

1833 First Conference of Charity France
1853 Death of Frédéric Ozanam 17 territories, including 11 in Europe
1933 Centenary of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul 64 territories
2000 Second millennium 127 territories
2018 Current situation 149 territories

Inspirational prospects

These positive figures should never satisfy Vincentians, since, as Frédéric Ozanam reminded them in 1835, “Charity should never look back, but always ahead, because the number of its past good deeds is always small, and the present and future sorrows it must relieve are infinite.”

So the task remains huge: so many hearts to be consoled in the world, so many people knowing nothing of the path to holiness offered by the conferences – to serve and meet God by practicing works of charity, mercy and evangelization.

Through the “SSVP PLUS” project, the General Council continues its mission with enthusiasm, to “develop the Society around the whole world”, consolidating existing structures, re-energizing the weakest, and introducing the Society in new countries. There are opportunities at the moment in Greece, Morocco, the Vatican and Kazakhstan (and 15 other countries), … we invite the members of the various conferences to support these new branches with your prayers.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has only one desire: that the poor and suffering Jesus, hidden in our oppressed and abandoned brothers and sisters around the whole world, should be loved and served ever more affectively and effectively.

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the Glory!” Psalm 115.


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