Vatican statistics reveal less religious priests
The number of clerical members of religious orders is continuing to decrease, but there is a rise in the number of students of philosophy and theology in religious and diocesan seminaries, according to the new edition of the Pontifical Yearbook (Annuario Pontificio)
The 2002 Edition of the Yearbook that collects all data related to the presence of the Church throughout the world was presented to the Pope on Saturday.
The data indicates that there are 4,092,725 involved in pastoral activities, distributed as follows: 4541 bishops, 405,178 priests (of which 265,781 are diocesan priests) 27,824 permanent deacons, 55,057 professed religious who are not priests, 801,185 professed women religious, 30,687 members of secular institutes, 126,365 missionary laymen and 2,641,888 catechists.
The number of priests in the year 2000, compared to that of 1999, attests to an increase of 189 members resulting from an increase of 789 members of diocesan clergymen and from a diminution of 600 of religious clergy. The statistics also point to a strong expansion, in the period considered, of permanent deacons, lay members and catechists.
The growth in the number of the students of philosophy and theology in the diocesan seminaries as well as in religious ones, which began in 1978, has been confirmed. Overall, they rose by 73.1% passing from 63,882 in 1978 to 110,583 in the year 2000. The largest growth was experienced in Africa where the number of the seminarists more than tripled; this is followed by Asia with a 125% rise, followed in turn by the American continent which had a 65% increase; in Europe the increase has been approximately 12%.
The Holy See maintains normal diplomatic relationships with 174 States. Moreover, during the year 2001, 6 new Episcopal Sees were created, 1 Apostolic Exarchate, 2 Prefectures, 2 Metropolitan Sees were elevated to 2 Episcopal Sees Centers and 161 new Bishops were appointed.
Finally, out of a world population of 6047 million, there are 1,050 million baptised Catholics equal to 17.3%. The distribution of the baptized Catholics, in accordance with the different demographic weight of the different continents, results as rather different in the various geographical areas of the planet: in particular the American continent represents 49.4% of the Catholics of the whole earth, while Europe is home to 26.7% of Catholics. Lesser percentages are recorded in Africa (12.4%), Asia (10.7%) and Oceania (0.8%).