Vatican statistics on global Catholics has some surprises

It is that time of the year again: The Vatican has released its annual report on global Catholic Church membership. 

The report’s friendly name is the “Statistical Annuary of the Church,” and is prepared each year by, appropriately enough, the Central Office of Statistics of the Church, and presented to the pope in an audience, along with a fresh copy of the Pontifical Annuary, which compiles specific information on the bishops and dioceses, organizations and Church officials around the globe. (The 2011 copy on my desk is about 2,400 pages.) 

The bottom line, according to data compiled to the end of 2010: The total number of Catholics in the world and the number of deacons, priests and bishops all increased. 

Continued decreases, however, were seen in the number of women religious. 

A years-long decline in the number of religious men halted in 2010. 

Some more of the statistics, as compiled by Catholic News Service: 

The worldwide Catholic population reached 1.196 billion, an increase of 15 million or 1.3 percent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate, which was estimated at 1.1 percent. Catholics as a percentage of the global population “remained stable at around 17.5 percent.” 

The percentage of Catholics declined slightly in South America from 28.54 percent to 28.34 percent of the regional population, and dropped considerably in Europe from 24.05 percent to 23.83 percent. In Southeast Asia and Africa, the percentage of Catholics increased in 2010 by just under half a percentage point. 

The number of bishops in the world increased from 5,065 to 5,104. 

The number of priests grew from 410,593 to 412,236, increasing on every continent except Europe, which had 905 fewer priests at the end of 2010 than it did at the end of 2009. 

The number of permanent deacons reported — 39,564 — was an increase of more than 1,400 over the previous year. Almost all — 97.5 percent — of the world’s permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe. 

The number of religious men showed the first increase in years, growing by 436 to 54,665. 

The number of women religious fell by 7,500 to 721,935, despite showing a 2 percent increase in both Asia and Africa. 

The number of seminarians around the world showed continued growth, from 117,978 at the end of 2009 to 118,990 at the end of 2010. In the last five years, the number of seminarians rose more than 14.2 percent in Africa, 13 percent in Asia and 12.3 percent in Oceania. Numbers decreased in other regions of the world, particularly Europe, which saw a 10.4 percent drop in the number of seminarians between 2005 and 2010. They dropped in the Americas by 1.1 percent. 

I look forward to hearing your comments at feedback@osv.com.