VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The number of priests ordained has increased worldwide, while the number of those who have given up the exercise of the priesthood has decreased noticeably, reported L’Osservatore Romano.
The Vatican’s semi-official newspaper made this report based on statistics from the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, prepared annually by the Central Office of Church Statistics. It will be presented within the next few days in the Vatican.
The most recent official statistics refer to information from 2009. The total number of priests reported at that time was 410,593, of whom 275,542 were members of the diocesan clergy and 135,051 of religious congregations. This increased from a decade ago, when in 1999 the figures were 405,009 priests, of whom 265,012 were diocesan and 139,997 religious.
Thus the total number of priests worldwide in 2009, compared to 1999, grew by 1.4%, with a 4% increase of the diocesan clergy and a 3.5% decrease of the religious clergy.
The percentage has declined in North America (about 7% for diocesan clergy and about 21% for religious clergy), Europe (about 9%) and Oceania (4.6%).
However, African priests have increased (38.5%), as have Asian priests (30.5%) and the diocesan priests of Central and South America. In Africa and Asia, the number of religious clergy decreased.
The distribution of clergy by continents in 2009 continues to be characterized by a marked predominance of European priests (46.5% of the total). This group constitutes about 56% more than clergy from the Americas.
The Asian clergy is estimated at 13.5% of the total number, the African priests at 8.9% and the Oceanian at 1.2%.