Vatican statistics show Catholic growth

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People walk into St. Peter's Square the night before the beatification of Pope John Paul II

The Catholic Church added 15 million new faithful in 2010 and the number of priests continued to steadily increase for the tenth straight year, according to the latest edition of the pontifical yearbook.

The Catholic population increased from 1.181 billion in 2009 to 1.196 billion in 2010, a growth of 1.3 percent. The percentage of baptized Catholics worldwide has remained steady at 17.5 percent.

Priests increased from 410,593 to 412,236. There were about 277,000 diocesan priests and 135,227 religious order priests. The growth trend has continued since the year 2000. The number of clergy increased by 1,695 in Asia and by 765 in Africa. Growth in the Americas and Oceania was only in the double-digits, while priest numbers fell by 905 in Europe.

The figures come from the 2012 edition of the Annuario Pontifico, known as the pontifical yearbook, and the “Annuarium Satisticum Ecclesiae.” These provide a statistical snapshot of the Church.

The Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Substitute for General Affairs to the Secretary of State, presented the compilations to Pope Benedict XVI on March 10.

The number of bishops has increased from 5,065 to 5,104. Africa again showed the largest growth, adding 16 bishops, while the Americas added 15 and Asia added 12.

The permanent deacon population increased by 3.7 percent from 38,155 to 39,562. Almost 65 percent of this deacon population is in North America, while over 33 percent are in Europe.

The numbers of non-ordained male religious increased slightly and stood at 54,665. Female religious declined from 729,376 to 721,935, with almost a three percent drop in Europe, though their numbers increased in Africa and Asia.

The major seminarian population dropped by 10.4 percent in Europe and by 1.1 percent in the Americas, but showed a 14.2 percent increase in Africa, a 13 percent increase in Asia, and a 12.3 percent increase in Oceania.

The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries has increased constantly over the five years through 2010. They numbered 114,439 in 2005 and 118,990 in 2010.

The two works presented to the Pope also record new events in the life of the Church.

In 2011, Pope Benedict erected eight new episcopal sees, one personal ordinariate and one military ordinariate. One archdiocese and eight dioceses were elevated to the rank of metropolitan see.

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