VATICAN CITY — Vatican Radio reported Wednesday that the number of Catholics in the world has increased on all five continents, with an increase totaling 15 million souls.

The figures were published by the Fides news agency from the latest edition of the Church’s Book of Statistics, updated to Dec. 31, 2012. The statistics show that, on that date, the number of Catholics in the world stood at 1,228,621,000, reflecting a worldwide increase of more than 15 million compared to the previous year.

The Americas and Africa registered the biggest increases, followed by Asia, Europe and Oceania, stated the report. The percentage of Catholics around the world stood at 17.49%, a decrease of .01% compared to the end of 2011.

In an address to the European Parliament in November, Pope Francis said, “Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world that frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion. … In many quarters, we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe that is now a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant.”

He then urged the members of the European Union to work toward restoring a sense of human dignity in the once solidly Christian continent.

The total number of priests in the world increased by 895 to 414,313. Europe once again registered the largest decrease (-1,375), followed by the Americas (-90) and Oceania (-80). Asia experienced the greatest increase in the number of priests (+1,364), followed by Africa (+1,076).

There was an overall decrease in the number of women religious worldwide, whose numbers dropped by 10,677 to a total of 702,529. Once again, Africa (+727) and Asia (+2,167) showed the greatest increase, while Europe (-9,051) and the Americas (-4,288) showed the biggest decrease in the number of women religious. 

The number of lay missionaries in the world is 362,488, with an overall decrease of 19,234.

In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 71,188 kindergartens, 95,246 primary schools and 43,783 secondary schools. Regarding, charity and health-care centers in the world run by the Church, there are 115,352.