Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church appears to be in good health, with a global increase in the number of faithful, bishops, priests - especially in Asia - deacons and seminarians. The decline of men religious seems to have halted however that of women religious continues, even if contradicted by their growth in Africa and Asia. These are the figures that emerge from the Pontifical Yearbook 2012, which was presented this morning to Benedict XVI, along with the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae annual Church statistics.
The Yearbook has revealed some important novelties regarding the Catholic Church in the world, since 2011. During the year 8 new episcopal sees were built, 1 Personal Ordinariate and 1 Military Ordinariate; 1 archdioceses and 8 dioceses in metropolitan locations were erected; 1 prelature, 1 apostolic vicariate and 1 apostolic prefecture were elevated to diocese and 1 mission "su iuris" to apostolic prefecture.
The statistical data for the year 2010, provides a summary analysis of key trends in the Catholic Church in the planet's 2,966 dioceses.
In 2010 there were just under 1,196 million Catholics, compared to about 1.181 million in 2009, for a total increase of 15 million faithful at 1.3%. The territorial impact of Catholics suffered noticeable variations between 2009 and 2010: they have reduced their importance in South America (from 28.54 to 28.34 per cent) and especially in Europe (from 24.05 to 23.83 per cent). They reclaimed position in Africa (from 15.15 to 15.55 per cent) and South East Asia (from 10.41 to 10.87 per cent).
From 2009 to 2010, the number of bishops in the world increased from 5,065 to 5,104 with a relative increase of 0.77%. The increase was in Africa (+16 new bishops), America (+15) and Asia (+12), while a slight decrease occurred in Europe (from 1,607 to 1,606) and Oceania ( 132 to 129).
The growth trend in the number of priests, which began in 2000, continued in 2010, for a total of 412,236 priests, 277,009 of which are diocesan clergy and 135,227 religious clergy, but in 2009 there were 410,593 priests divided into 275,542 diocesan and 135,051 religious. Overall, the number of priests have increased from 2009 to 2010 by a total of 1,643 units. The increases are recorded in Asia (+1,695 priests), in Africa (+761), Oceania (with +52) and America (with +40 units), while the decline has affected Europe (with -905 priests).
The number of permanent deacons, both diocesan and religious, continues to show a trend of high growth in 2010. In fact, this year saw an increase of 3.7%, compared to 2009, rising from 38,155 to 39,564. Permanent deacons are present mainly in North America and Europe with a respective share of the global total of 64.3% and 33.2%,.
The decline that has affected the category of religious seems to have halted somewhat in 2010. In 2009 they counted 54,229 and the number reached 54,665 in 2010. In sharp decline in South America (3.5%) and in North America (0.9%), stationary in Europe, vocations to religious life has increased in Asia (+4.1%), which increase its share of the world total, and Africa (+3.1%).
Even the number of professed women religious is undergoing a profound transformation characterized by a strongly decreasing dynamic. Globally, the number dropped from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010. The decline has focused on three continents (Europe, America and Oceania), with significant negative changes (-2.9% in Europe, in Oceania -2.6% and -1.6% in America). In Africa and Asia, however, the increase was very significant, at around 2% for both continents.
The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries has steadily increased over the last five years. On the whole, it is up 4%, from 114,439 units in 2005 to 118,990 in 2010. The number of students in the major seminaries is down in Europe (-10.4%) and America (-1.1%), up in Africa (+14.2%), Asia (+13.0%) and Oceania (+ 12.3%).