Latest global figures show Catholic Church growing

VATICAN, March 4, 2008 (CISA) -Between 2005 and 2006, the number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.115 million to 1.131 million, a growth of 1.4 percent, according to the latest figures released by the Holy See.

Over the same period, the number of bishops grew from 4,841 to 4,898, an increase of 1.2 percent, the 2008 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook, says.

In 2007, eight new episcopal sees were created, as well as one apostolic prefecture, two metropolitan sees and one apostolic vicariate; 169 new bishops were also appointed.

The number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006 (a growth of 0.21 per cent). The number of priests has grown steadily from 2000 to 2006.

However, the distribution of priests differs from continent to continent. Their numbers have fallen in Europe and America, and increased in Africa and Asia.

Students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries number 115,480, an increase of 0.9 percent over last year. Of these 24,034 are in Africa, 37,150 in America, 30,702 in Asia, 22,618 in Europe, and 976 in Oceania.

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