.- The latest edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the statistical directory of the worldwide Church, has revealed that the number of Catholics in the world has remained the same during the last five years, with the exception of Africa, where the number has increased significantly.
The new edition, prepared by the Central Office of Statistics of the Church and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, indicates that the number of Catholics in the world rose from 1,045,000,000 in 2000 to 1,115,000,000 in 2005, which constitutes an increase of 6.7 percent. This increase is in keeping with the world population growth rate, which currently stands at 6.9 percent.
Catholics made up 17.28 percent of the world population in 2000 and are currently 17.25 percent.
Africa is the continent with the greatest increase in Catholics with 18 percent, a significant number if one considers that the total African population grew from 14 percent during this time.
The number bishops increased from 4,541to 4,841 with an increase of 6.61 percent especially in Asia and America.
Priests number some 405,700 in the world, and the places with the greatest number of new clergy are Africa and Asia, with increases of 19.2% and 14.9% respectively. In America, as well as in Europe and Oceania, the number remains unchanged. This is due to the increase in diocesan priests—with an additional 4000—as the number of religious priests decreased by 3000.