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World's Catholic population up 1.5%

Catholic World News - March 12, 2012

The world’s Catholic population grew by 15 million, or 1.3%, in 2010: the last year for which full statistics are available. There were nearly 1.2 billion Catholics in the world at that time.

The Annuario Pontificio for 2012, the official yearbook of Catholic Church statistics, was formally presented to Pope Benedict XVI on March 10. The volume contains the most recent statistics from every Catholic diocese and religious order in the world.

The percentage of Catholics in the world’s overall population held steady at 17.5%. The proportion of Catholics dropped in some regions—from 28.54% to 28.34% in South America, and from 24.05% to 23.83% in Europe, for instance—but those minor declines were offset by gains in Africa (15.15% to 15.55%) and southeast Asia (10.47% to 10.87%).

The number of priests in the world has been rising since 2000, and the year 2010 saw a continuation of that trend. There were 412,236 Catholic priests at the close of 2010, up from 410,593 the previous year. Every continent except Europe saw an increase in the number of priests, although Europe saw a significant decline. (For statistical purposes, the Vatican treats North and South America as a single continent.)

A steady decline in the number of women religious also continued, however, with the numbers dropping in Europe, Oceania, and the Americas. The total number of women religious worldwide fell from 729,371 to 721,935.

There was a slight increase, on the other hand, in the number of male religious. Although those numbers also fell in Europe and the Americas, they rose in Asia and Africa. The total moved from 54,229 to 54,665.

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