.- Today Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone presented the Holy Father with the 2008 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio”, better known as the pontifical yearbook. In addition, a communiqué was released highlighting the growth of the Church over the past few years.
In 2007, eight new episcopal sees (dioceses) were created, as well as one apostolic prefecture, two metropolitan sees and one apostolic vicariate. Last year 169 new bishops were also appointed.
Between 2005 and 2006, the number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.115 to 1.131 billion, a growth of 1.4 percent. Over the same period, the number of bishops grew from 4,841 to 4,898, an increase of 1.2 percent.
Around the world, the number of religious and diocesan priests rose from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006 (a growth of 0.21 percent). The number of priests has grown steadily from 2000 to 2006.
However, the distribution of priests differs from continent to continent. Their numbers have fallen in Europe and the Americas, and increased in Africa and Asia.
Seminaries have also seen a similar rise in the number of students. Diocesan and religious seminary students number 115,480, an increase of 0.9 percent over last year. Of these 24,034 are in Africa, 37,150 in the Americas, 30,702 in Asia, 22,618 in Europe, and 976 in Oceania.