Membership of the Catholic Church grew by 15 million in a single year, according to new statistics.
The Fides news agency published the figures, which are based on the latest edition of the Church’s Book of Statistics, which covers the period up to December 31 2012.
Fides said the number of Catholics worldwide increased in 2012 to 1,228,621,000, a rise of 15 million on the year before.
The greatest increases were in the Americas and Africa, but the Church also grew in Asia, Europe and Oceania, Vatican Radio reported.
Catholics comprised 17.49 per cent of the world population in 2012, Fides said, a decrease of 0.01 per cent on 2011.
The number of priests in the world increased by 895 to 414,313, but the number in Europe declined by 1,375. Meanwhile, the number of women religious worldwide fell by 10,677 to 702,529.
According to the study, the Church runs 71,188 preschool centres, 95,246 primary schools and 43,783 secondary schools around the world, as well as 115,352 charity and healthcare centres.