Number of Catholics in World on the Rise

by Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The number of Catholics in the world and the number of bishops, priests, religious men and seminarians all increased in 2011, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics.

The number of permanent deacons is showing “strong expansion” globally, but especially in Europe and the Americas, it said.

At the end of 2011, the worldwide Catholic population reached 1.214 billion, an increase of 18 million or 1.5 percent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate, which was estimated at 1.23 percent, said a statement published by the Vatican press office.

Catholics as a percentage of the global population remained “essentially unchanged” at around 17.5 percent.

The statement reported a handful of the statistics contained in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reported worldwide Church figures as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and its Central Office of Church Statistics presented the first copy of the yearbook to Pope Francis; they also gave him the first copy of the 2013 “Annuario Pontificio,” a volume containing information about every Vatican office, as well as every diocese and religious order in the world. According to the statistical yearbook, the increase in the number of Catholics in Africa (4.3 percent) and Asia (two percent) greatly outpaced their regions’ population growth, which was 2.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

The growth of the Catholic community in Europe and the Americas was even with regional population growth, which was about 0.3 percent for both, the yearbook said. At the end of 2011, most of the world’s Catholics (48.8 percent) were living in the Americas.

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