02/20/2010, 00.00
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Pontifical Yearbook: slight increase in global number of Catholics

The faithful are 17.4% of world population. Priests and religious growing in Africa and Asia; decline in Europe and America. Candidates for the priesthood also increases in Oceania.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - This morning Card. Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, presented Benedict XVI the new edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, presented by the Central Statistical Office of the Church. The data refers to 2009 regarding the erection of new dioceses (8 and a Prelature) and the appointment of 169 new bishops. For the rest, the statistics are for the period 2007 to 2008 and traces the development of the Catholic Church in the planet’s 2,945 ecclesiastical  districts.

In the period 2007 - 2008 the number of baptized Catholics in the world rose by nearly 1.147 billion to 1.166 billion, an increase of 19 million (+1.7%). By comparing the data with the evolution of the global population over the same period, which rose from 6,62 to 6,70 billion, the global incidence of Catholics increased slightly, from 17.33 to 17.40%.  

In 2008, the distribution of the clergy between the continents, is characterized by a high prevalence of priests in Europe (47.1%),  30%  are Americans, the clergy Asia accounts for 13.2%, Africa for  8.7% and Oceania for 1.2%.

Analyzing the period between 2000 and 2008, a small increase in the number of priests (+1%) was noted. For the same period, the number of priests in Oceania remains unvaried, while instead the number of African and Asian clergy and American priests has increased. Europe’s clergy has conspicuously dropped from 51.5 to 47.1%.  

Religious sisters remain the largest group of collaborators active in diocese. From 2000 to 2008 there was a downward trend of 7.8% (from 801,185 to 739,067). The largest contractions recorded in Europe (- 17.6%), America (- 12.9%) and Oceania (- 14.9%). In Africa and Asia, there has been an increase (+ 21.2 + 16.4% in Africa and Asia).

Globally, the number of candidates for the priesthood has increased by about 1%, from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. The increase by continent shows an increase in Africa (3.6%), Asia (4.4%) and Oceania (6.5%). Europe declined by 4.3%. The figures for America instead are almost stationary.

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