Number of Catholics in Africa on the rise
The Vatican statistics of the new edition of the 2012 pontifical yearbook indicates that the number of Catholics in Africa was growing.
The information, which referred to the year 2010, revealed details about the Catholic Church in the 2,966 ecclesiastical circumscriptions.
According to the new 2012 pontifical yearbook, presented to Pope Benedict XVI by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Saturday, the number of Catholics with respect to the total population varied considerably between the continents.
Catholic numbers had increased in Africa from 15.15 per cent to 15.55 per cent, while they had dropped in South America from 28.54 per cent to 28.34 per cent, and in Europe from 24.05 per cent to 23.83 per cent.
The number of bishops went from 5,065 to 5,104, a growth of 0.77 per cent. This increase involved Africa, which had 16 new bishops.
The number of clergy increased in Africa by 765. The steady increase in the number of priests, which began in 2000, had continued.
However, the statistics also showed that the number of female religious was on the decline, moving from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010.
Numbers fell by 2.9 per cent in Europe, by 2.6 per cent in Oceania and by 1.6 per cent in the Americas.
Nonetheless, they increased by around 2 per cent in both Africa and Asia.
The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries had increased constantly over the last five years, from 114,439 in 2005 to 111,990 in 2010, a growth of 4 per cent.
Numbers of major seminarians were increasing in Africa at 14.2 per cent.
The new data also stated that the number of Catholics in the world grew by 1.3 per cent.