VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The number of Catholics in the world grew in 2004, not as fast as the overall population, but the number of priests also increased, according the new Pontifical Yearbook.
There were 1.098 billion Catholics in the world, reveals the 2006 edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, presented to Benedict XVI on Saturday.
The 2,400-page volume offers a numerical overview of the state of the Catholic Church at year-end 2004, the latest date for which data are available.
A Vatican communiqué summarizing some of the data revealed that “between the year 2003 and 2004 Catholics in the world increased from 1.086 billion to 1.098 billion, a growth of 12 million faithful, equivalent to a 1.1% increase.”
The communiqué noted that the world population in the same period grew to 6.388 billion from 6.301 billion.
Hence, “One observes that the relative presence of baptized Catholic faithful decreased by 1 per thousand, decreasing from 17.2 Catholics per 100 inhabitants in 2003 to 17.1 per 100 in the following year.”
The Pontifical Yearbook shows that “the tendency to growth in the number of priests continued in 2004.”
“In that year, the total number of priests was 405,891,” two-thirds of whom are diocesan clergy, one-third religious, the yearbook notes.
“On the whole, priests increased between 2003 and 2004 by 441,” the Vatican statement said. “In the face of the considerable increase in Asia and Africa, where an increase is registered in the same period of 1,422 and 840 priests, respectively, there is a stationary situation in America and Oceania, while in Europe there has been a decrease of 1,876.”
The number of permanent deacons rose 2.5%, to 32,324. About four-fifths of them are in North America and Europe.
“Candidates to the priesthood, diocesan and religious, present a positive evolution globally, increasing from 112,373 in 2003 to 113,044 in 2004,” the Vatican statement said.
“However, in this case there are reasons for concern in Europe, where in the last years the decline is evident. On the contrary, Africa and Asia show an encouraging vitality of vocations,” explained the Vatican communiqué.
The Pontifical Yearbook was presented to the Pope by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State for general affairs.
Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, director of the Church’s Central Statistical Office, coordinated the writing of the latest yearbook.
The yearbook will go on sale within days. See www.libreriaeditricevaticana.com.