May 12, 2014

VATICAN CITY – The number of Catholics in the world and the number of priests, permanent deacons and religious men all increased in 2012, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics.

The number of candidates for the priesthood also showed its first global downturn in recent years.

The statistics come from a recently published Statistical Yearbook of the Church, which reported worldwide Church figures as of Dec. 31, 2012.

By the end of 2012, the worldwide Catholic population had reached 1.228 billion, an increase of 14 million or 1.14 per cent, slightly outpacing the global population growth rate.

However, the latest Vatican statistical yearbook estimated that there were about 4.8 million Catholics that were not included in its survey because they were in countries that could not provide an accurate report to the Vatican, mainly China and North Korea.

The percentage of Catholics as part of the general population is highest in the Americas where they make up 63.2 per cent of the continent's population. Asia has the lowest proportion, with 3.2 per cent.

The total number of priests – diocesan and religious order – around the world grew from 413,418 to 414,313, with a modest increase in Africa and a larger rise in Asia.

The number of priests in Asia grew 13.7 per cent between 2007 and the end of 2012.

The number of permanent deacons reported – 42,104 – increased more than 1,100 over the previous year and 17 per cent since 2007.

The vast majority – more than 97 per cent – of the world's permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe.

The number of women in religious orders continued its downward trend. The total of 702,529 professed sisters and nuns in 2012 was a 1.5 per cent decrease from the previous year and a 5.9 per cent decrease since 2007.

The number of candidates for the priesthood – both diocesan seminarians and members of religious orders – showed its first downturn since 2003.

The number of candidates dropped slightly to 120,051 men at the end of 2012 as compared to 120,616 at end of 2011.

Increases were reported in the traditionally vocations-rich continents of Africa and Asia.