According to newly released Church data, the number of Catholics in the world is increasing, but the percentage of Catholics in terms of world population has decreased slightly.
The Statistical Yearbook of the Church indicates that the crisis of the dwindling ranks of diocesan priests has passed, but not the crisis of religious vocations.
The number of Catholics rose from 757 million in 1978 to 1.07 billion at year-end 2002. By continent, the increase was 150% in Africa; 74% in Asia; 49% in Oceania; 45% in the Americas; and 5% in Europe.
On the other hand, the percentage of Catholics as a share of world population dropped. In 1978, 17.99% of the world's inhabitants were Catholic; in 1990, the tally was 17.68%; and in 2002, 17.2%.
Half the world's Catholics are in the Americas near 49.9%; 26.15% in Europe; 12.84% in Africa; 10.3% in Asia and 0.78% in Oceania.