Americas Have Half the World's 1.07 Billion Catholics

Statistics in Latest Edition of Pontifical Yearbook

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2004 ( Catholics worldwide numbered 1.07 billion in 2002, and half of them were in the Americas, says the 2004 Pontifical Yearbook.

The new volume, presented today to John Paul II, also shows an increase in diocesan priests and a continuing decrease in the number of religious-order priests and women religious.

A Vatican statement summarized some of the highlights in the yearbook that includes the names of all the bishops, members of the Roman Curia, and superiors of religious congregations and orders, as of 2002.

There are 4,217,572 persons engaged in pastoral activity, down 1.2% from the previous year’s tally of 4,270,069.

That number was broken down as follows: 4,695 bishops, 405,058 priests (267,334 of whom are diocesan), 30,097 permanent deacons, 54,828 religious (not priests), 782,932 women religious (51,371 of whom are contemplative nuns), 28,766 members of secular institutes, 143,745 lay missionaries, and 2,767,451 catechists.

According to the data, in 2003 the Pope created 30 new cardinals and appointed 175 new bishops.

The volume states that out of a total world population of 6.2 billion, baptized Catholics number 1.07 billion, or 17.2%.

The yearbook states that 50% of Catholics are in the Americas, 26.1% in Europe, 12.8% in Africa, 10.3% in Asia, and 0.8% in Oceania.

In relation to the present population in each continent, the percentage of Catholics is as follows: 62.4% in America, 40.5% in Europe, 26.8% in Oceania, 16.5% in Africa, and 3% in Asia.

Compared with year-earlier figures, the total number of priests has remained stable (405,067 in 2001). The number of diocesan priests rose to 267,334 from 266,448 in 2001. The number of religious-order priests fell to 137,724 from 138,619 a year earlier.

The number of permanent deacons increased in 2002 by 3.1% and that of lay missionaries by 3.4%. The number of women religious and catechists slightly decreased.

Major seminarians numbered 112,982, up from 112,244 a year earlier. Candidates to the priesthood rose 5.8% in Africa, 1.4% in the Americas. In Europe and Asia their number slightly decreased.

The yearbook, published by the Vatican Press, will soon be for sale in bookstores that stock Vatican works.

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