The number of priests in the world dropped by 136 during 2015, the Vatican has reported.

The increased number of priests in African dioceses and religious orders could not make up for the sizeable fall in Europe, which lost 2,502 priests in a year.

Over five years from 2010 to 2015 – a statistically more relevant period – the number of diocesan priests globally rose, while the number of priests belonging to religious orders declined.

The 2017 Annuario Pontificio, or Vatican yearbook, and a new edition of the Vatican Statistical Yearbook, reported that the number of baptised Catholics grew one per cent in a year to reach 1.285 billion at the end of 2015. The countries with the most Catholics are, in descending order, Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, United States, Italy, France, Colombia, Spain, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Argentina.

Taken together, these 10 countries account for almost 56 per cent of the world’s Catholic population. Looking at 2010 to 2015, the global Catholic population increased by 7.4 per cent, the Vatican said. This means that in 2010 there were an average of 2,900 Catholics for every Catholic priest; in 2015, the ratio had climbed to 3,091 Catholics per priest.

Africa continued to be the continent with the largest percentage growth, increasing by 19.4 per cent over the same five-year period. The increase in Africa outpaced the growth of the general population.

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