February 20,2006, New Delhi (ICNS) — The number of Catholics all over the world has increased but the growth has been low in relation to global population, according to latest Vatican yearbook.
The 2006 edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, a 2,400-page book, lists the data of Catholic Church and its personnel in 2004.
A Vatican communiqué that summarized the data said "between the year 2003 and 2004 Catholics in the world increased from 1.086 billion to 1.098 billion, a growth of 12 million faithful, equivalent to a 1.1% increase."
But during that period world population grew to 6.388 billion from 6.301 billion. Therefore, "the relative presence of baptized Catholic faithful decreased by 1 per thousand, decreasing from 17.2 Catholics per 100 inhabitants in 2003 to 17.1 per 100 in the following year," the communiqué said.
However, the number of priests has increased, with Asia and Africa leading the growth. The total number of priests was 405,891 in the period, two-thirds of them diocesan clergy, one-third religious, the book said.
The number of priests in America and Oceania was static, while Europe recorded a decrease.
Deacons also increased to number 32,324, four-fifths of them in North America and Europe.
The communiqué noted a "positive evolution" concerning vocation to priesthood, which increased from 112,373 in 2003 to 113,044 in 2004. But "there are reasons for concern in Europe, where in the last years the decline is evident," it said. But Africa and Asia show "an encouraging vitality" it added.