VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The number of priests steadily increased between 2000 and 2006, according to the newest pontifical yearbook.
Benedict XVI received today from his secretary of state the 2008 edition of the Annuario Pontificio.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was accompanied by Archbishop Fernando Filoni, “sostituo” for General Affairs, and the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.
A communiqué regarding the presentation highlights some of the salient facts contained in the new yearbook. In 2007, eight new episcopal sees were created, as well as one apostolic prefecture, two metropolitan sees and one apostolic vicariate; 169 new bishops were also appointed.
From year-end 2005 to year-end 2006, the latest date for which numbers are available,, the number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.115 billion to 1.131 billion, a growth of 1.4%. Over the same period, the number of bishops grew to 4,898 from 4,841, an increase of 1.2%.
The number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006 (a growth of 0.21%). The number of priests has grown steadily from 2000 to 2006.
However, the distribution of priests differs from continent to continent. Their numbers have fallen in Europe and America, and increased in Africa and Asia.
Students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries number 115,480, an increase of 0.9% from year-end 2005 to year-end 2006.