VATICAN CITY – The Vatican says the number of priests worldwide is slowly but steadily rising.
The Holy See presented its yearbook filled with statistics to Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.
Since 2000, the number of priests has gone up by several hundred each year. The two decades before that had witnessed a marked decline.
The percentage of Catholics worldwide remains stable, at about 17.3 percent.
In 2007, the last year statistics were available, Catholics numbered some 1.147 billion around the globe.
The Catholic church has been stung by sexual abuse scandals involving clergy, and the Vatican has cracked down on standards for seminarians.
Worldwide, the number of candidates for the priesthood rose by just under one-half of a percentage point, although Europe and North and South America registered small declines.
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