Vatican Releases New Church Statistics

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The latest edition of the Statistics Yearbook of the Church reveals that the Catholic presence in the world grew more than 11 percent during the period 2000-2008.

According to the Vatican Press office, the number of Catholics in the world has been growing steadily.

“ . . .  (N)umbers in Africa grew by 33 percent, in Europe they remained generally stable (an increase of 1.17 percent), while in Asia they increased by 15.61 percent, in Oceania by 11.39 percent and in America by 10.93 percent,” the press release announced.

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

The priestly ranks increased slightly over this nine-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of 0.98 percent. The most increases were seen in Africa (33.1%) and Asia (23.8%), with America remaining stable and the numbers falling in Europe by seven percent, and in Oceania by four percent.

The number of female religious is almost double the number of priests, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008, the report states. The largest number of sisters reside in Europe (41%), America (27%), Asia (22%) and Oceania (1.28%). While it may be falling elsewhere, the number of sisters is on the rise in Africa where their population increased 21 percent during this time period, and in Asia which saw a 16 percent increase in the number of religious.

The Church can look forward to a strong future with a global increase in the number of students studying in diocesan and religious seminaries. Those numbers rose from 110,583 in 2000 to more than 117, 024 in 2008.

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