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Number of Catholics Surpasses 1 Billion

February 15, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

The total number of baptized Catholics worldwide has risen to 1.061 billion, with the greatest increase in Africa, according to the recently released Pontifical Yearbook for 2003.

Since 1978, the number of baptized Catholics in the world has risen about 40%.

But in Africa, the increase was 148%. By contrast, church membership in Europe remained stable.

The yearbook reported that in 2001 there were 4,649 bishops, 405,067 priests, 29,204 permanent deacons, 792,317 nuns in active life and 51,973 in contemplative life, 139,078 lay missionaries, and 2,813,252 teachers of the catechism.

Pope John Paul II appointed 158 additional bishops during 2002, the yearbook said.

The number of diocesan priests was up somewhat, while the number in religious orders declined slightly.

The number of new candidates for the priesthood was down in Europe, but up somewhat in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, alarmed over the declining numbers of Britons attending church, has begun distributing a 40-minute video featuring the archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The video is described as part of a $165,000 campaign aimed at persuading clergy to meet people "where they are" rather than waiting, often in vain, for them to show up in church.

In Britain, a nation with a population pushing 60 million, Sunday attendance regularly dips to below 1 million.

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