The Vatican Publishing House has released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information on the main aspects of Catholic Church activity in various countries for the period 2000-2006. Over the past seven years, the Catholic presence in the world has remained stable at around 17.3 percent of the total population. In Europe, despite the fact that 25 percent of all Catholics live there, the growth in the number of faithful was less than one percent. In the Americas and in Oceania their numbers grew, respectively, by 8.4 percent and 7.6 percent; in Asia they remained more or less stable with respect to population growth, whereas in Africa they increased from 130 million in 2000 to 158.3 million in 2006. The number of bishops in the world went up from 4,541 in 2000 to 4,898 in 2006, an increase of 7.86 percent. The number of priests also increased slightly over this seven-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 407,262 in 2006, an overall rise of around 0.51 percent. In Africa and Asia their numbers increased (respectively, by 23.24 percent and 17.71 percent), in the Americas they remained stable, while they fell by 5.75 percent in Europe and 4.37 percent in Oceania. The number of diocesan priests increased by two percent, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 271,091 in 2006. By contrast, the number of regular priests showed a constant decline, down by 2.31 percent to 136,000 in 2006. Of the continents, only in Europe was there a clear reduction in priests: in 2000 they represented 51 percent of the world total, in 2006 just 48 percent. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5 percent of the world total in 2000 and 21 percent in 2006. The Americas remained steady at around 30 percent, and Oceania a little more than one percent. Non-ordained religious numbered 55.057 in the year 2000 and 55,107 in 2006. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 12.01 percent), as did Oceania (16.83 percent), the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa increased (respectively, by 30.63 percent and 8.13 percent). Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 750,000 in 2006. As for their geographical distribution, 42 percent reside in Europe, 28.03 percent in America and 20 percent in Asia. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 15.45 percent) and Asia (up by 12.78 percent). The Statistical Yearbook of the Church also includes information on the number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries. In global terms, their numbers increased from 110.583 in 2000 to more than 115.000 in 2006, a growth of 4.43 percent. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up whereas Europe saw a reduction of around 16 percent. Source: VIS
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