Number of Catholics Rises by 15 Million

Diocesan Priests Increase; Religious Decrease

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2005 ( The 2005 Pontifical Yearbook reveals that there are 1.086 billion Catholics in the world, 15 million more than last year.

Half of all Catholics live in the Americas. The data of the volume — presented today by the members of the Central Office of Church Statistics to John Paul II, despite his bout of flu — give a statistical picture of Catholicism.

«The number of baptized faithful has increased, from 1.071 billion in 2002 to 1.086 billion in the year 2003,» explained a statement issued by the Vatican.

«In Africa, an increase of 4.5% of the faithful has been recorded, in Europe there has been, practically speaking, a situation of stability. Note must be taken of significant increases in Asia (up 2.2%), Oceania (up 1.3%) and America (up 1.2%),» the Vatican note explained.

«A reading of the data on the distribution of Catholics in the diverse geographical areas reveals that America embraces 49.8% of Catholics worldwide, while Europe has 25.8%. Lower percentages are found in Africa (13.2%), Asia (10.4%) and Oceania (0.8%),» it added.

In 2003, the statement said, priests totaled «405,450, of whom 268,041 were members of the diocesan clergy and 137,409 of the religious clergy; in 2002 they numbered 405,058 divided in 267,334 diocesan priests and 137,724 religious priests.

«The total number of priests in 2003 in relation to 2002 increased, therefore by 392 units, an increase of 707 in the diocesan clergy and a decrease of 315 in the religious.»

«Priestly ordinations were 9,317 in 2003 while in the previous year they were 9,247; in particular, dioceses went from 6,534 in 2002 to 6,582 in 2003, and religious [ordinations] from 2,713 to 2,735,» it explained.

The number of men who pursue vocations is decreasing, according to the study. «Seminarians registered in philosophy and theology seminars decreased from 112,643 in 2002 to 112,373 in 2003.»

The largest number of seminarians is found in the Americas: 37,191. Asia follows with 27,931, Europe with 24,387, Africa with 21,909 and Oceania with 955.

In 2003, the Pope «established 10 new episcopal sees and one apostolic vicariate. Six metropolitan sees were constituted. He named 171 bishops in total.»

The Pontifical Yearbook, a volume of more than 2,100 pages, lists the names and essential information on all the bishops and dioceses of the Catholic Church. It also lists persons who work in organizations of the Holy See, religious congregations, and educational and ecclesiastical institutions.

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