The number of Catholics in the world increased from around 1,166 million in 2008 to 1,181 million in 2009, an increase of fifteen million faithful which corresponds to a growth of 1.3 percent according to the Annuario Pontificio or pontifical yearbook published on Saturday.
The distribution of Catholics between the continents is notably different from that of the general population. Between 2008 and 2009 the Americas maintained their proportion of the global population fixed at 13.6 percent; by contrast, over that two-year period Catholics there reached 49.4 percent of the Catholic population of the world. Over the same period, Asia's Catholic population increased from 10.6 percent to 10.7 percent of the world total, considerably lower than the 60.7 percent of the global population living in that continent. Europe's share of the world population is three percentage points lower than that of the Americas, but its share of world Catholics is nearly half that of the Americas, at 24 percent. For States in both Africa and Oceania, their share of the world population differs little from their share of the world Catholic population (respectively, 15.2 percent and 0.8 percent).
The number of bishops grew between 2008 and 2009 from 5,002 to 5,065. As for priests, both regular and diocesan, their numbers have increased over the last ten years from 405,178 in 2000 to 410,593 in 2009, although their distribution differs considerably from continent to continent. Numbers of diocesan clergy are falling in Europe and increasing in all the other continents, while numbers of religious clergy are in general decline, with the exception of Asia and Africa.
Numbers of permanent deacons have increased by 2.5 percent, from 37,203 in 2008 to 38,155 in 2009. Their presence grew more rapidly in Oceania (19 percent) and in Asia (16 percent), while in Europe and America the increase was of 2.3 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.
Among the pastoral workers who assist bishops and priests in their activities, female religious remain the largest group, although their numbers fell from 739,067 in 2008 to 729,371 in 2009. The crisis continues despite the fact that numbers have increased in Africa and Asia.
The number of candidates to the priesthood grew by 0.82 percent, from 117,024 in 2008 to 117,978 in 2009. Here too the different continents show a different evolution, for while in Africa and Asia numbers grew by 2.39 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, in Europe and America they fell by 1.64 percent and 0.17 percent.