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Church still showing overall growth

VATICAN CITY (AsiaNews): The Catholic Church appears to be in good health, with a global increase in membership, as well as in bishops and priests, especially in Asia, deacons and seminarians, according to statistics published in the Pontifical Yearbook 2012 and the annual Church statistics publication.

While the decline of men religious seems to have halted, women religious numbers continue to drop, except in Africa and Asia.

The yearbook reveals some important novelties.

During 2011, one personal ordinariate and one military ordinariate; one archdiocese and eight dioceses in metropolitan locations; one prelature; one apostolic vicariate and one apostolic prefecture were established, plus the raising of one mission to the status of apostolic prelature.

The statistical data for 2010 provides trends in the Catholic Church in its 2,966 dioceses.

There were around 1.196 billion Catholics, compared to about 1.181 billion in 2009, a total increase of approximately 15 million, or 1.3 per cent.

The territorial impact of Catholics suffered noticeable variations between 2009 and 2010, showing reduced importance in Latin America (from 28.54 to 28.34 per cent) and Europe (from 24.05 to 23.83 per cent). They were more positive in Africa (from 15.15 to 15.55 per cent) and southeast Asia (from 10.41 to 10.87 per cent).

From 2009 to 2010, the number of bishops in the world increased from 5,065 to 5,104 with a relative increase of 0.77 per cent.

The increase was in Africa (16), America (15) and Asia (12), while a slight decrease occurred in Europe (from 1,607 to 1,606) and Oceania (132 to 129).

The growth trend in the number of priests, which began in 2000, continued in 2010, for a total of 412,236 priests, 277,009 of which are diocesan and 135,227 religious, but in 2009, there were 410,593 priests divided between 275,542 diocesan and 135,051 religious.

Overall, the number of priests has increased by 1,643. The increases are recorded in Asia (1,695 priests), Africa (761), Oceania (52) and the Americas (40), while the decline is in Europe (-905).

Permanent deacons have a high growth rate, showing a 3.7 per cent increase year on year, rising from 38,155 to 39,564.

Permanent deacons are present mainly in northern America and Europe (64.3 and 33.2 per cent).

Numbers of religious men and women declined in South America (3.5 per cent) and in northern America (0.9 per cent) and remained stationary in Europe, but vocations to the religious life increased in Asia (4.1 per cent) and Africa (3.1 per cent).

Globally, the number of religious women dropped from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010. The decline was mostly in Europe, the Americas and Oceania. In Africa and Asia, there was an increase of about two per cent.

Seminarians have increased over the last five years. On the whole, they are up four per cent, from 114,439 in 2005 to 118,990 in 2010.

The number of students in the major seminaries is down in Europe (-10.4 per cent) and the Americas (-1.1 per cent), up in Africa (14.2 per cent), Asia (13.0 per cent) and Oceania (12.3 per cent).

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