.- This past Saturday the 2009 edition of the “Annuario Pontifico,” or pontifical yearbook, was presented to the Holy Father. The yearbook confirms an increase in both the number of Catholics around the world and in the number of priests and seminarians in Africa and Asia.
The “Annuario Pontifico” was presented to Pope Benedict by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs. The book documents the trends of the Catholic Church around the world in recent years.
For instance, the book notes that in the past year, the Pope erected one archdiocese and 11 new dioceses. He also appointed 169 new bishops.
The book also notes growth in the Church as a whole. The number of Catholics in the world increased from around 1.131 million in 2006 to nearly 1.147 million in 2007. The number of bishops also grew from 4,898 in 2006 to 4,946 in 2007.
Additionally, the number of priests increased over the last eight years, from 405,178 in 2000 to 408,024 in 2007, although the density of their distribution differs from continent to continent. While number of priestly vocations is growing in Africa and Asia (by 27.6 percent and 21.2 percent respectively), in America they remain more or less stationary. Europe and Oceania saw a decline in their priestly ranks (6.8 percent and 5.5 percent respectively), the yearbook says.
Another fact the yearbook documents is the increase in the number seminarians, from 115,480 in 2006 to 115,919 in 2007. Here too the different continents show differing trends, with notable increases in Africa and Asia while Europe and America show a drop of 2.1 percent and 1 percent respectively.