Africa, Asia lead seminary growth

04 Mar 2009

By The Record

Number of priests showing moderate but steady increase, especially in the Third World, Vatican says.

Seminarian Scott Winchel prays following Communion during a Mass marking the bicentennial of Mount St. Mary’s University at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore last year. Winchel, of Savannah, Ga., is in his third year of theology studies at the seminary at Mount St Mary’s, the second oldest Catholic university in the US Photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The latest Church statistics show that the number of priests and seminarians around the world has been showing a modest, yet steady increase.
The statistics from the end of 2007 also showed that the number of Catholics remains stable at 1.147 billion people across the globe.
The sampling of statistics was released on February 28 in connection with the presentation of the 2009 edition of the Vatican yearbook, known as the Annuario Pontificio, which catalogs the Church’s presence in each diocese.
The Vatican said the global Catholic population increased during 2007 by 1.4 percent, which more or less kept pace with the 1.1 per cent global birthrate that year.
For the past two years, Catholics have made up 17.3 percent of the world’s population, it said.
The number of priests in the world also rose, but just by 0.18 per cent.
At the end of 2007 there were 408,024 priests in the world, 762 more than at the beginning of the year.
The figure on the number of priests was showing a continued “trend of moderate growth which began in 2000 after more than 20 years of disappointing results,” the Vatican report said.
However, that growth has been confined to Africa and Asia, which showed substantial increases in ordinations with 27.6 per cent growth and 21.1 per cent growth, respectively, it said.
The number of priests has remained more or less the same in the Americas, the Vatican said, while Europe registered a 6.8 per cent decline and Oceania – which includes Australia – reported a 5.5 per cent decrease in the total number of priests since 2000.
The number of seminarians increased by 0.4 per cent in 2007.
At the end of the year, there were 115,919 seminarians.
However, only Africa and Asia saw significant growth in priestly vocations, while numbers fell by 2.1 per cent in Europe and by one per cent in the Americas, the Vatican said.
The report said the number of permanent deacons continued to show significant growth.
There were 35,942 deacons at the end of 2007 – an increase of 4.1 per cent over the previous year, it said.