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Report: Catholic Church growing, especially in Asia, Africa

February 13, 2007

From Catholic News Service:

The latest Vatican statistics confirm that the church’s population and ministerial workforce are continuing to shift to developing countries, especially those in Africa and Asia.

Figures released Feb. 12 showed that the overall number of Catholics increased to nearly 1.12 billion at the end of 2005, an increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year.

The Catholic growth rate was slightly higher than the rate of overall population increase, which was 1.2 percent. Catholics now represent 17.2 percent of the global population, the Vatican said.

The statistics were released in connection with the presentation of the 2007 edition of the Vatican yearbook, known as the Annuario Pontificio, which catalogs the church’s presence in each diocese.

The church’s population grew fastest in Africa, where the number of Catholics increased 3.1 percent in 2005, about half a percentage point higher than the overall population growth rate on the continent.

In Asia, the number of Catholics was up 2.7 percent, and in the Americas up 1.2 percent. In Europe, there was a very slight increase in the number of Catholics, the Vatican said.
Similar geographical differences were reflected in the number of priests and seminarians.
The number of Catholic priests around the world was 406,411 at the end of 2005. That was an increase of 520, or about 0.1 percent, over the previous year.

Broken down by continent, the increase was 3.8 percent in Asia and 3.6 percent in Africa. Europe and the Americas showed a decrease of about half a percentage point in the number of priests, while the number dropped 1.8 percent in Oceania.

The global distribution of priests continued to swing slowly toward Africa and Asia, which at the end of 2005 had 20.3 percent of the world’s priests; in 1985, that number was about 11 percent. Europe continued to lose priests and was home to 48.8 percent of the world total; in 1985, Europe had 58 percent of the world’s priests.

The distribution numbers were relatively unchanged for the Americas, which has about 30 percent of the total number of priests, and for Oceania, which has about 1 percent of the total.

Regarding seminarians, the Vatican said that globally the number increased 1.2 percent in 2005, from 113,044 to 114,439. Africa led the way with an increase of 3.46 percent, followed by Asia with 2.9 percent.

The Americas had an increase in seminarians of 0.6 percent, while Oceania remained virtually unchanged. In Europe, the number of seminarians dropped 1.9 percent.

For every 100 seminarians in the world at the end of 2005, 32 were from the Americas, 26 were Asian, 21 African, 20 European and one from Oceania, the Vatican said.

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