Number of Catholics on the Rise

Vatican Releases Statistical Yearbook

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican announced today that its publishing house has released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information from 2000 to 2008, including that the number of Catholics in the world is now 1.16 billion.

Over these nine years, the Catholic presence in the world has grown from 1.045 billion in 2000 to 1.166 billion in 2008, an increase of 11.54%. Considering the statistics in detail, numbers in Africa grew by 33%, in Europe they remained generally stable (an increase of 1.17%), while in Asia they increased by 15.61%, in Oceania by 11.39% and in America by 10.93%. As a percentage of the total population, European Catholics represented 26.8% in 2000 and 24.31% in 2008. In America and Oceania they have remained stable, and increased slightly in Asia.

The number of bishops in the world went up from 4,541 in 2000 to 5,002 in 2008, an increase of 10.15%.

The number of priests also increased slightly over this nine-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of 0.98%. In Africa and Asia their numbers increased (respectively, by 33.1% and 23.8%); in the Americas they remained stable, while they fell by 7% in Europe and 4% in Oceania.

The number of diocesan priests increased by 3.1%, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 274,007 in 2008. By contrast, the number of regular priests showed a constant decline, down by 3.04% to 135,159 in 2008. Of the continents, only Europe showed a clear reduction in priests: in 2000 they represented 51% of the world total, in 2008 just 47%. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5% of the world total in 2000 and 21.9% in 2008. The Americas slightly increased its percentage to around 30% of the total.

Non-ordained religious numbered 55,057 in the year 2000 and 54,641 in 2008. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 16.57%), as did Oceania (22.06%); the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa grew (by 32% and 10.47%, respectively).

Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008. As for their geographical distribution, 41% reside in Europe, 27.47% in America, 21.77% in Asia and 1.28% in Oceania. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 21%) and Asia (up by 16%).

The Statistical Yearbook of the Church also includes information on the number of philosophy and theology students in diocesan and religious seminaries. In global terms, their numbers increased from 110,583 in 2000 to more than 117,024 in 2008. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up, whereas Europe saw a reduction.