VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 ( The number of baptized Catholics on the planet continues to grow and half of their number are in the Americas. The number of priests and seminarians is also on the rise.

This is some of what can be learned from the data of the 2011 papal yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, presented to Benedict XVI on Saturday morning by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, undersecretary for general affairs.

The statistical data from the year 2009 furnish a summary view of the principal dynamics of the Catholic Church in her 2,956 ecclesiastical entities across the globe: The number of baptized Catholics has increased from nearly 1.16 billion in 2008 to 1.18 billion in 2009, with an absolute increase of 15 million faithful.

The distribution of Catholics among the continents differs notably from that of the population. In regard to percentage of the global population, between 2008 and 2009 the Americas did not change, keeping at a steady 13.6%. In the same two years, the number of Catholics in the Americas climbed to a level that constitutes 49.4% of the Catholic population of the world.

In Asia the Catholic population grew from 10.6% to 10.7% while the total population of Asia is 60.7% of the world’s population.

The total population of Europe, with respect to the total population of the globe, was three points below that of the Americas and represented 24% of the world’s Catholic population.

The countries of Africa and Oceania were both reported to be 15.2% of the world’s population and 0.8% of the total Catholic population of the planet.

Between 2008 and 2009 the number of bishops in the world grew from 5,002 to 5,065, increasing 1.3%. Africa led in this growth (1.8%), followed by Oceania (1.5%), while Asia and the Americas were below the median at 0.8% and 1.2% respectively. Europe was on a par with the median at 1.3%.

The number of priests continues the trend of moderate increase that began in 2000. The number of diocesan and religious priests grew in the last decade from 405,178 in 2000 to 410,593 in 2009.

In 2009 the number of priests increased by 0.34% over 2008. This figure derives from the 0.08% decrease in religious priests and the 0.56% increase in diocesan priests. There was a decrease in religious priests on every continent except for Asia and Africa.

The number of permanent deacons increased 2.5% between 2008 and 2009, from 37,203 to 38,155.

The total population of professed women religious decreased from 739,068 in 2008 to 729,371 in 2009, despite the growth in numbers in Africa and Asia.

The number of candidates for the priesthood has climbed 0.82%, increasing from 117,024 in 2008 to 117,978 in 2009. A large part of the growth is attributable to Asia and Africa where the percentages of increase were 2.39% and 2.2% respectively. Europe and the Americas registered contractions of 1.64% and 0.17% respectively during the period.