Catholics in the world continue to increase in number by the millions, according to the latest official statistics from the Catholic Church. Although the number of baptized Catholics in on the rise, Church officials say that with the exception of Asia and Africa, the "crisis remains" in vocations to the religious life throughout the globe.
The 2011 Pontifical Yearbook was presented to Pope Benedict XVI on the morning of Feb. 19 by a delegation led by his “number two,” secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and members of the Central Office of Church Statistics.
The book contains information on all Church jurisdictions and organizations, religious and cultural institutes and structures worldwide. Some information was released about novelties in dioceses and other church jurisdictions created in 2010 yet the main focus is on statistics from 2008-2009.
The standout figure of the new yearbook is the jump in the number of newly baptized Catholics over the two-year period.
In the 2,956 church jurisdictions in the world, the number jumped by 15 million from 2008. The total number of living baptized Catholics on the globe in 2009 reached 1,181,000,000.
North and South America account for a fraction under half of this number. European Catholics amount to 24 percent, Africa rings in at 15 percent and Asia at just over 10 percent. The remaining number, totaling less than one percentage point, live in Oceania.
Growth figures for all continents were not provided for the individual continents in the Vatican statement.
The yearbook also showed that the number of bishops and priests grew in direct proportion to the number of Catholics worldwide. For the 1.3 percent more Catholics in the world, there were 1.3 percent more of both bishops and priests in the period from 2008 - 2009. In 2009, there were 5,065 bishops and 410,593 priests.
The numbers also show a net increase of priests on every continent except Europe, where both religious and diocesan numbers decreased over the two-year period examined.
This increase was perhaps overshadowed, however, by what Church officials called a troubling statistic. Consecrated religious numbers decreased worldwide by nearly 10,000 to 729,371.
"So the crisis remains, notwithstanding Africa and Asia where they increased," read the Vatican statement.
Numbers also show that deacons worldwide increased by more than 1,000 men to a total of 38,155 and seminarians are on the increase led by significantly higher numbers again in Africa and Asia. Decreases were registered in Europe and in the combined total of North and South American dioceses.
The 2011 Yearbook has not yet been released by the Vatican Publishing House to the public, but it will be due out soon.
The Pope traditionally receives the first three copies of the volume bound in white cloth. It is made available to the public with a red-colored binding, which has led to its common name - the "red book of the Church."
According to the statement from the Holy See's Press Office, the Pope thanked the delegation and all contributors for the volume and showed "great interest" in the data it contains.