.- According to statistics from the 2006 edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the official Vatican yearbook, the worldâs Catholic population grew by 12 million, or 1.1%, between 2003 and 2004.
The 2006 volume showing figures compiled by the Church's central statistical bureau was formally presented to Pope Benedict XVI on February 18 by Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Among the interesting figures in the latest addition is the creation in 2005 of 15 new episcopal sees, one metropolitan see and one apostolic administration. During the same year 170 new bishops were consecrated.
Catholics number about 98 million among the worldâs six billion inhabitants according to data from the 2003-2004 period. While in that time the Catholic population grew by 12 million, the percentage of baptized Catholics among the world's people declined from 17.2% to 17.1%.
The Annuario also noted that in 2004 there were 405,891 priests, one-third of which are religious and two-thirds diocesan. The number of priests grew during that same period by 441, with higher numbers in Africa and Asia, stationary growth in America and Oceania and declining numbers in Europe. Since 1978 the number of permanent deacons has continued to grow throughout the world, with a total of 32,324 in 2004, most of whom are in North America and Europe.
The number of seminarians grew from 112,373 in 2003 to 113,044 in 2004. Vocations to the priesthood were more numerous during that period in Africa and Asia and were down in Europe.