Data that the Holy See has just published in its Statistical Yearbook for 1997 reveal that while the number of Catholics has grown by a third in the past twenty years, the number of Catholics as a percentage of the world population Catholics in the world population has declined.
    The number of baptised Catholics has gone from 757 million to more than a billion (exactly 1,005,254). But the demographic growth of the planet has maintained a higher rate. In 1978, Catholics comprised 17.99% of the population. The present figure is 17.27%.
    The number of priests has decreased by 3.98% to 404,000. However the priest population in Africa and Asia has increased by 49.35% and 46.00% respectively. The number of women religious has decreased by 17%, from 991,000 to 819,000. The figure for men declined from 234,000 to 198,000.
    While most of the figures indicate significant decline, there was a surprisingly high 69.87% increase in the number of seminarians, from 63,882 to 108,517. However, a 238.5% increase in the seminarian population in Africa largely accounts for the figure, even though Europe has experienced a more modest (16.47%) growth in the number of seminarians.
    Zenit 12:31pm 7/6/99

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