For the first time since 1978 there has been an increase in the number of priests, passing from 404,208 last year to 404,626 today.
   The statistic was contained in the Pontifical Yearbook 2000, presented to Pope John Paul II by Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
   The yearbook also revealed that the number of major seminarians is 109,828 as compared with the 109,171 of 1998. The number of seminarians has grown in Africa and America, especially Latin America, while the situation is stagnant in western Europe and growing strongly in eastern Europe.
   The publication further indicates that, during 1999, 164 bishops were appointed, bringing their number to 4439. There is now a total of 404,626 priests (of whom 264,202 are diocesan), 25,345 permanent deacons, 57,813 unordained male religious and 814,779 female religious. The members of secular institutes number 30,722, lay missionaries 56,421 and catechists 2,298,387.
   In 1999, the Holy See established diplomatic ties with the Cook Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis, thus bringing to 172 the number of States with which it maintains diplomatic relations.
   Moreover, 13 episcopal sees and five apostolic administrations were created and six sees were elevated to metropolitan status.
VIS 8/2/00

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