The barque has sometimes hit turbulent tides, but there’s no sign that it’s sinking.
And note the number of permanent deacons worldwide: 42,104, a number the continues to climb.
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, which, as of 2013, was estimated at 1.09 per cent. Catholics as a percentage of the global population remained essentially unchanged from the previous year at around 17.5 per cent.
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.
According to the yearbook, 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.
During the 2012 calendar year, there were 16.4 million baptisms of both infants and adults, according to the statistical yearbook.
It said the number of bishops of the world stayed essentially the same at 5,133.
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, a larger rise in Asia, and slight decreases in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Asia saw a 13.7 per cent growth in the number of priests between 2007 and the end of 2012.
The number of permanent deacons reported — 42,104 — was an increase of more than 1,100 over the previous year and a 17-per-cent increase since 2007. The vast majority — more than 97 per cent — of the world’s permanent deacons live in the Americas or in Europe.