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Worldwide Catholic population rises to 1.166 billion

Catholic World News - February 22, 2010

The world's Catholic population is now 1.166 billion, according to the latest Vatican yearbook. The figure shows an increase of 1.7% in 2007: the last year for which full statistics are available.

The 2010 edition of the Annuario Pontificio was presented to Pope Benedict XVI on February 22. The yearbook shows a rise in the number of Catholic priests during the first decade of the 21st century. Most of the growth in the clerical population has taken place in the southern hemisphere, however, while Europe has seen a marked decline in priests. In 2000, Europe accounted for 51.5% of the world's priests; today that figure is 47.1%, and falling.

The number of candidates for the priesthood worldwide also showed modest growth: from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. Again the geographical distribution of that growth was highly uneven. Africa, Asia, and Oceania saw strong increases in the number of seminarians, while in Europe the number dropped by more than 4%. In the Americas, which are treated as one continent in Vatican statistics, the number of seminarians was essentially unchanged.

The number of women religious has fallen since 2000: from 801,185 to 739,067 in 2008.

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