Catholics now exceed one billion

 Figures due to be released shortly in the new Statistical Yearbook of the Church - prepared by the Church's Central Statistics Office show that there are now more than one billion baptised Catholics worldwide. This figure marks an increase of 38 per cent, since Pope John Paul II began his pontificate - from 757 million in 1978 to just over one billion, 17.3 per cent of mankind, in 2000. Catholics represent 62.8 per cent of the population in the Americas, 40 per cent in Europe and 2.9 per cent in Asia. From 1978 to 2000, the number of bishops increased from 3,714 to 4,541, a growth of almost 22 per cent. The distribution of bishops over different geographical areas has undergone almost no change since 1978: all of America has 37.3 per cent of all bishops, followed by Europe with 33 per cent, Asia with 13.8 per cent, Africa with 13.2 per cent and Oceania with 2.7 per cent. As regards priests, in the year 2000 they numbered 405,178 (265,781 diocesan and 139,397 religious), a decrease of 3.75 per cent compared with 1978. This reflects a reduction of 12.4 per cent in the diocesan clergy and an increase of 1.26 per cent in the religious. In Europe, the decrease in numbers of diocesan priests is progressive, while the drop in religious clergy is slighter. On the other hand, in Africa, Asia, America and Oceania, numbers grew more or less consistently. Permanent deacons are the group that underwent the greatest evolution over the period in question, with numbers increased fivefold on all continents. Between 1978 and 2000 their numbers went from 5,562 to 27,824, a relative increase of 400.25 per cent. Unordained religious numbered 75,802 in 1978 and 55,057 in 2000. Though numbers fell in Oceania, Europe and the Americas, they grew in Africa and Asia. As for female religious, there were almost a million in 1978 and 801,000 in 2000, representing a decline of 19 per cent over 22 years. Among catechists, lay missionaries and members of secular institutes, only the latter group saw a small drop between 1990 and 2000, whereas the others grew considerably. Finally, the number of candidates to the priesthood grew worldwide from 64,000 in 1978 to 111,000 in 2000, with an uninterrupted upward trend over the entire period. source: Vatican Information Service

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