.- Monday morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presented the Holy Father with the 2007 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook. According to the stats compiled in the new book, the percentage of the world which is Catholic remained unchanged, while the number of priests slightly increased.
According to the yearbook’s newly compiled stats for the years between 2004 and 2005, the number of Catholics increasing in the world from 1,098 million to 1,115 million, a growth of 1.5 percent. However, because this growth is very similar to that of the population of the planet (1.2 percent), the percentage of Catholics in the world remained substantially unchanged at 17.2 percent.
A geographical analysis of these variations shows that over the period 2004- 2005, the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 3.1 percent, while the population of the continent grew by 2.1 percent. In Asia and the Americas the number of Catholics also increased slightly with respect to the population (2.71 percent against 1.18 percent in Asia, 1.2 percent against 0.9 percent in the Americas). In Europe, the number of Catholics grew slightly while the population remained almost stationery.
In 2004-2005, the number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 405,891 to 406,411 (a growth of 0.13 percent). However, the distribution of priests differed from continent to continent, with their numbers growing in Africa and Asia (respectively, by 3.8 percent and 3.55 percent) and falling in Europe and America (by 0.5 percent), and in Oceania (by 1.8 percent).
The number of candidates to the priesthood, both diocesan and religious, also increased overall, passing from 113,044 in 2004 to 114,439 in 2005 (an increase of 1.23 percent). However, vocations are most numerous in Africa and Asia, they are falling in Europe and are stationary in Oceania.
A communiqué also noted that in 2006, 12 new episcopal sees were created, as well as nine metropolitan sees and one apostolic administration; 180 new bishops were also appointed.