(Vatican Radio) The number of Catholics in the world has increased with growth registered across all five continents. The figures are taken by the Fides news agency from the latest edition of the Church’s Book of Statistics updated to 31 December 2012. These show that on that date the number of Catholics in the world stood at 1,228,621,000 with an overall increase of more than 15,000,000 compared to the previous year. The Americas and Africa registered the biggest increases followed by Asia, Europe and Oceania. The world percentage of Catholics stood at 17.49 %, a decrease of 0.01% compared to the end of 2011.
The total number of priests in the world increased by 895 to 414,313. Europe once again registered the largest decrease (-1,375) followed by the Americas (-90) and Oceania (-80). In Africa the number of priests grew by 1,076 and in Asia by 1,364.
There was an overall decrease in the number of women religious worldwide, whose numbers dropped by 10,677 to 702,529. Once again Africa and Asia showed increases whilst Europe and the Americas showed the biggest decrease in the number of women religious.
The number of lay missionaries in the world is 362,488 with an overall decrease of 19,234.
In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 71,188 kindergartens, 95,246 primary schools and 43,783 secondary schools. Charity and healthcare centres in the world run by the Church are 115,352.