PONTIFICAL YEARBOOK 2010 SHOWS SLIGHT INCREASE IN NUMBER OF CATHOLICS, PRIESTS, AND SEMINARIANS, SLIGHT DECREASE IN FEMALE RELIGIOUS

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – The Pontifical Yearbook 2010 was presented to the Holy Father Benedict XVI the morning of February 20. A reading of the volume can infer some news about the life of the Catholic Church in the world, prior to 2009. In the period of 2007 to 2008, baptized believers in the world went from almost 1.147 billion to 1.166 billion, with an absolute increase of 19 million faithful or 1.7%. Comparing these facts with the evolution of the global population over the same period, which rose from 6.62 to 6.7 billion, we observe that the global number of Catholics increased slightly, from 17.33 to 17.40 percent . 
Between 2007 and 2008, the number of bishops has increased overall by 1.13% from 4,946 to 5,002. The increase was significant in Africa (+ 1.83%) and the Americas (+1.57%), while in Asia (+1.09%) and Europe (+0.70%) values lie below the overall average. Oceania recorded in the same period a rate of change of -3%. 
The situation of priests, both diocesan and religious, continues to show, in aggregate, a positive development, yet still moderate, at around 1% in the period 2000/2008. The priests, diocesan and religious, in fact, have increased over the past nine years, from 405,178 in 2000 to 408,024 in 2007 and 409,166 in 2008. The distribution of the clergy among the continents, in 2008, is characterized by a high prevalence of priests in Europe (47.1%), in the Americas 30%, in Asia 13.2%, in Africa 8.7%, and in Oceania 1.2%. 
Between 2000 and 2008 the number of priests in Oceania did not vary, however the numbers of African, Asian, and American (from all the Americas) priests have increased, while the European clergy has dropped from 51.5 to 47.1%. 
Religious sisters, who were 801,185 worldwide in 2000, are decreasing gradually. In 2008, there were 739,067 (with a relative decrease in the period by 7.8%). It should be noted that the greatest number of professed religious groups are in Europe (40.9%) and America (27.5%) and that the most significant reductions have occurred also in Europe (- 17.6%) and in America (-12.9%), as well as in Oceania (-14.9%), while Africa and Asia have seen significant increases (+21.2 for Africa and +16.4% for Asia), which offset the above-mentioned decrease, but not so far as to cancel it. 
Globally, the number of candidates for the priesthood has increased from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. Overall, in two years there has been a rate increase of about 1%. This relative change was positive in Africa (3.6%), Asia (4.4%) and Oceania (6.5%), while Europe showed a decline of 4.3%. America remained about the same as the year before. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 20/02/2010)

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