Vatican City — The Vatican statistics of the new edition of the 2012 pontifical yearbook indicates that the number of Catholics in Africa is growing exponentially.
The statistical information, which refers to the year 2010, reveals details about the Catholic Church in the 2,966 ecclesiastical circumscriptions on the planet.
According to the new 2012 pontifical yearbook, presented to Pope Benedict XVI by Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Saturday, the number of Catholics with respect to the total population varies considerably between the continents.
Catholic numbers have increased in Africa from 15.15 percent to 15.55 percent while they have dropped in South America from 28.54 percent to 28.34 percent and in Europe from 24.05 per cent to 23.83 percent.
The number of bishops went from 5,065 to 5,104, a growth of 0.77 percent. This increase involved Africa which has sixteen new bishops.
The number of clergy has increased in Africa by 765. The steady increase in the number of priests which began in the year 2000 has continued.
However, the statistics also showed that the number of female religious is undergoing a strong decline, moving from 729,371 in 2009 to 721,935 in 2010.
Numbers fell by 2.9 percent in Europe, by 2.6 percent in Oceania and by 1.6 percent the Americas. Nonetheless they increased by around 2 percent in both Africa and Asia.
The number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries has increased constantly over the last five years, from 114,439 in 2005 to 111,990 in 2010, a growth of 4 percent.
Numbers of major seminarians are increasing in Africa at 14.2 per cent.
Over the last two years the presence of baptized Catholics in the world has remained stable at around 17.5 percent, according the statistics.
The new data also states that the number of Catholics in the world moved from 1,181 million in 2009 to 1,196 million in 2010, an increase of fifteen million faithful, corresponding to a growth of 1.3 percent.