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Catholic population in the world 2010

Vatican City, April 29 (IANS/AKI) The number of Catholics in the world rose by 11.5 percent to 1.166 billion between 2000 and 2008 that includes a "dramatic increase" in Africa and Asia, the Vatican has said.

The biggest increases were recorded in the Third World - with a 33 percent rise in Africa and a 15.6 percent rise in Asia, statistics revealed by the Vatican said Wednesday.

The number of followers backed up by a rise in clerics in Africa and Asia - up by 33 percent and 24 percent respectively, it said.

The statistics, however, showed barely any increase in Europe in the same period, which has led to speculation that allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy may drive more people away from the Church.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of Catholics in Europe rose a "generally stable" 1.17 percent, according to the study. Looking at the overall European population, the number of Catholics decreased by 2.5 percent.

In Latin America, the Catholic population expanded by 10.93 percent.

The Vatican has come under fire of late for its poor response to the widespread accusations of clerical sexual abuse.

Reports from Germany said thousands of Catholics have turned their back on the Catholic Church with the scandal and the reinstatement of four "ultra-conservative" bishops.

Only one in six German Catholics say they believe in the Church since the scandal broke out, Stern magazine said in March, while a recent poll by CBS News said more than two-thirds of Americans think Pope Benedict XVI has done a bad job in handling the crisis.

Benedict's favourability rating among US Catholics has fallen to 27 percent in 2010 from 40 percent in 2006.

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