Ranks of Catholics Grew by 38% Over Last 22 Years

Priests Down 3.7%; Permanent Deacons and Seminarians Up

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The number of Catholics in the world has grown by 38% in the years of John Paul II´s pontificate, according to the latest Statistical Yearbook of the Church.

According to the yearbook, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the number of people baptized in the Catholic Church worldwide from 1978 to 2000 increased to 1.045 billion from 757 million.

The numbers in Africa soared up by almost 140%. Europe is the last in this category, with 5.8% growth.

In Asia, Catholics comprise only 2.9% of the population, in Europe it is 40%, in the Americas 63%, with peaks of 90.1% and 86.6% in the center and south of the continent, and 24.6% in the north.

Over the 22-year period, the number of bishops has grown to 4,541 from 3,714, while priests total just over 405,000, down 3.75% from 1978.

Diocesan clergy are growing everywhere, with some exceptions, whereas religious clergy are shrinking, except in Asia.

Candidates for the priesthood, meanwhile, have soared, from 64,000 in 1978 to 111,000 in 2000. Growth is notable in Asia and Africa, less so in Oceania, Europe and America.

Permanent deacons have increased considerably everywhere since 1978, including a 678% rise in Europe. The ranks of professed male religious who are not priests have decreased notably, from 76,000 to just over 56,000.

There has also been about a 19% decrease in professed women religious, though there is growth in the developing world.

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