Number of Catholics and Priests Rises

Pontifical Yearbook of 2007 Releases Data

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The number of Catholics and priests in the world at year-end 2005 had increased slightly over the previous 12 months, according to the new Pontifical Yearbook.



The 2007 edition of the yearbook, presented to Benedict XVI today, stated that as of year-end 2005, the latest date for which data are available, there were 1.115 billion Catholics worldwide.

The 2,400-page volume, which offers a numerical overview of the state of the Church, showed an increase of 1.5% of Catholics compared with the 1.098 billion listed the previous year.

A Vatican communiqué summarizing some of the data revealed that "since this relative growth is quite close to that of the general population -- 1.2% -- the presence of Catholics in the world has remained substantially unchanged -- 17.20%."

However, there are some areas where Catholic growth was greater than population growth.

There was an increase of 3.1% of Catholics in Africa, whose population has grown by slightly less than 2.5%, the communiqué said.

"The Asian and American continents have also registered a higher increase in Catholics than in population growth, 2.71% against 1.18% for Asia, and 1.2% against 0.9% for America," continued the Vatican statement. There was a slight increase of Catholics in Europe.

Priests

The Pontifical Yearbook revealed that the number of diocesan and religious priests rose to 406,411 from 405,891, a relative increase of 0.13%.

The percentage increases were much higher in Asia and Africa, 3.8% and 3.55%, respectively, it noted.

This is in contrast to "Europe and America with a percentage decrease of about a half point, and Australia, with a fall of 1.8%" in the number of priests.

Africa and Asia proportionately had more priests, the Vatican statement noted: "Africa and Asia together provided 19.58% to the world's overall number in 2004; in 2005 their contribution had risen to 20.28%."

The Americas maintained a percentage of around 29.8%, while Oceania stayed stable, at slightly over 1% of the world's priests, according to the communiqué.

"The only continent to see its own quota decline is Europe," it said. "In 2004, the 199,978 priests represented nearly 49.3% of the total ecclesiastic group, while one year later it had diminished to 48.8%."

The Pontifical Yearbook reported that the number of seminarians had increased in Africa, Asia and America, while decreasing in Europe and remaining stable in Oceania.

"In 2005, of every 100 candidates to the priesthood in the whole world, 32 were American, 26 Asian, 21 African, 20 European and one from Oceania," the communiqué stated.

The yearbook will soon be on sale from the Vatican Publishing House.