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Charting change: Vatican statistics track church health indicators


Catholics around the world number 1.28 billion people, which is about 17.7 percent of the global population. The Vatican's Central Statistics Office compiles the figures each year and includes them in the 500-page Statistical Yearbook of the Church. The yearbook also breaks those figures down by continent and region. (CNS graphic/Robert Duncan)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The health of the Catholic Church can be measured in many ways, and the Vatican has a special office just for that purpose.

The Central Statistics Office, which operates under the Vatican Secretariat of State, conducts a variety of studies for the Roman Curia throughout the year. But one of the office's biggest projects is compiling the annual, 500-page Statistical Yearbook of the Church.

Of course, the yearbook tracks the Catholic population, both by a head count of the baptized in each country and as a percentage of the world's population. The latest report, based on numbers gathered Dec. 31, 2015, tallied 1.28 billion Catholics, which is about 17.7 percent of the global population.

Ten years earlier, according to the statistics office, the Catholic community numbered just over 1.1 billion, which was 17.3 percent of the population at that time.

Worldwide Catholics operate close to 118,000 hospitals, clinics, homes for the aged, orphanages, counseling centers and rehabilitation facilities. Ten years ago, the number of such facilities was less than 115,000.

When the Statistical Yearbook of the Church is released each year, one of the first figures many people look at is what the book defines as the "workforce for the church's apostolate."

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