Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

This bulletin is undeniably good news:

The Vatican says the number of priests worldwide is slowly but steadily rising.

The Holy See presented its yearbook filled with statistics to Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.

Since 2000, the number of priests has gone up by several hundred each year. The two decades before that had witnessed a marked decline.

The percentage of Catholics worldwide remains stable, at about 17.3%.

In 2007, the last year statistics were available, Catholics numbered some 1.147 billion around the globe.

Meantime, this report puts it all in context:

Thanks to large increases in Africa and Asia, the number of Catholic priests rose from 405,178 in 2000 to 408,024 in 2007, the report said.

In the previous two decades, the number of priests dropped markedly.

Numbers in Africa had risen by 27.6% and in Asia by 21%, the report said.

The figures were “a continuing trend of moderate growth in the number of priests in the world which began in 2000 after over two decades of disappointing results”, it added.

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