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World Catholic population grows by 16 million in 1999

From 1998 to 1999 Catholics worldwide increased by 16 million, according to data released this week with the publication of the Annuario Pontificio.

The enlarged 2001 edition, which was presented to John Paul II, has been enlarged and offers Church statistics for the period to 1 January 2000.

Among the data: Catholics in the world increased from 1.022 billion in 1998 to 1.038 billion in 1999, an increase of 1.6%. World population grew by 1.4% during the same time.

Catholics' share of the world population remains essentially unchanged at 17.4%.

The American continent has about half the world's Catholics, while Europe has 27.3%. Africa has 12%; Asia, 10.4%; and Oceania, 0.8%.

There are 3.86 million people dedicated to the apostolate, including 2.44 million catechists. There are 4482 bishops, 405,009 priests (of whom 265,012 are diocesan), 26,629 permanent deacons, 55,428 religious who are not priests, 809,351 professed nuns, 31,049 members of secular institutes, and 80,662 lay missionaries.

The total number of priests increased by 383 in 1999. There are 810 more diocesan priests, but 427 fewer priests in religious orders.

Europe has 52% of the world's priests - 80% more than America. Asia has 10% of the world's priests; Africa, 6.6%; and Oceania, 1.2%.

The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan seminaries and those of religious orders has increased by 0.7%, from 109,230 in 1998 to 110,021 in 1999.

In 1999, 33% of candidates for the priesthood were Americans, 25% European, 23% Asian, 18% African, and 1% Oceanian.

The Vatican last year established diplomatic relations with Bahrain and Djibouti, bringing to 174 the number of states with which it maintains diplomatic relations. An apostolic delegation was established in Botswana.

22 new episcopal sees were created, including one apostolic exarchate, one military diocese, 2 apostolic vicariates, 2 prefectures, one apostolic administration, 2 sui iuris missions, and 7 new metropolitan sees.