On Saturday, the Holy See’s Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano presented Pope Benedict XVI with the Vatican’s annual report on the state of the Church which, this year, summarized the first year of his pontificate.
Also on hand for the presentation were Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs, and various officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.
The 2006 “Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook, showed that in 2005, 15 new Episcopal sees were created as well as one metropolitan see, and one apostolic administration; 170 new bishops, it said, were also appointed.
Likewise, it clarified the fact that from 2003-2004, Catholics compiled a population of 1,098 million within a greater world population of 6,388 million.
Over this period, the Vatican noted, the number of faithful increased in absolute terms by 12 million (or 1.1 percent). However, the report showed that compared with the increase in the world population, which in the same period grew from 6,301 million to 6,388 million, the relative percentage of Catholics dropped from 17,2 percent in 2003 to 17.1 percent in 2004
It was also noted that in 2004, the number of world priests stood at 405,891 (one third of them regular and two thirds diocesan), with their numbers increasing by 441 over the period 2003-2004.
Likewise, the number of permanent deacons has been growing since 1978, and in 2004 stood at 32,324, most of them in North America and Europe.
The report most notably shows that vocations to religious life and the priesthood worldwide are growing, although it specifically shows that the most numerous exist in Africa and Asia, while numbers in Europe are falling--something Pope Benedict has expressed his deep desire to change.