Roman Catholicism is growing around the world, according to the latest figures released by the Church.
Growth during the last decade has put it on course to account for a fifth of the world's population in the next few years.
Collated by the Vatican's Central Office of Church Statistics, the figures show an increase in the number of Catholics from 1,115 million to 1,272 million between 2005 and 2014. Roman Catholics now account for 17.8 of the world's population, an increase of .5 per cent on the previous figure.
According to the Zenit news service, while growth in Africa has been dramatic at 41 per cent, compared with a population growth of 23.8 per cent, in the continent of Asia there was also a proportional increase in the number of Catholics (20 per cent compared to 9.6 per cent), and the same occurred in America (11.7 compared to 9.6 per cent).
In Europe there was a growth in the number of Catholics slightly higher (two per cent) than that of the overall population. However, in Oceania population growth was slightly greater than the increase in the number of Catholics.
The number of priests also rose, by 9,381, and now stands at 415,792. However, while numbers have grown rapidly in Africa and Asia, in Europe numbers declined by eight per cent and in Oceania by 1.7 per cent.
There was a dramatic decline in the number of candidates for the priesthood in Europe over the period, though worldwide numbers have risen. In Europe there was a drop of 17.5 per cent, while in America the drop was 7.9 per cent.