VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The number of Catholics, including the number of priests and seminarians, is increasing worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.
These statistics are found in the 2010 “Annuario Pontificio,” or Pontifical Yearbook, presented Saturday to Benedict XVI by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who is in charge of general affairs for the Secretariat of State.
The compilation of the yearbook — which will soon be on sale in bookstores — was overseen by Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, director of the Central Office of Church Statistics, Enrico Nenna and their collaborators.
In 2008 there were 1.166 billion baptized Catholics worldwide, an increase of 19 million (up 1.7%). Taking into account the increase in the world’s population to 6.7 billion, there is a slight growth in the percentage of Catholics who make up the global population (from 17.33% to 17.40%).
There was also an increase in the number of bishops, from 4,946 in 2007 to 5,002 in 2008 (up 1.13%). The growth in Africa (up 1.83%) and the Americas (up 1.57%) was significant, while in Asia (up 1.09%) and in Europe (up 0.70%) the values are below the overall average. In Oceania during the same period there was a 3% decrease in the number of bishops.
There was also a slight increase (around 1% between 2000 and 2008) for diocesan and religious priests, whose numbers grew from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008.
The number of clergy by continent has Europe on top, with almost half of the world’s priests still residing there (47.1%), followed by the Americas (30%), then Asia (13.2%) and Africa (8.7%) and finally Oceania (1.2%).
So, there was no variation in the distribution of priests in Oceania between 2000 and 2008. During this same period the distribution of priests has grown in Africa, Asia and the Americas, while it has visibly declined in Europe, from 51.5% to 47.1%.
The number of professed women religious dropped markedly: They numbered 801,185 in 2000 and decreased to 739,067 in 2008 (a 7.8% drop).
The largest numbers of professed women religious are in Europe (40.9%) and America (27.5%) but the most notable declines are also in Europe (down 17.6%) and America (down 12.9%), while there are noteworthy increases in Africa (up 21.2%) and Asia (up 16.4%). This growth in Africa and Asia counterbalances the decrease in Europe and America somewhat, but does not stop it.
At the global level the number of candidates for the priesthood is up, rising from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008, which is an increase of about 1%.
The increase in these numbers over this period has come especially from Africa (up 3.6%), Asia (up 4.4%) and Oceania (up 6.5%). In Europe, however, there was a 4.3% drop and the numbers in America have remained more or less stable.