Vatican: Number of priests fell 3.5% in 25 years

The number of priests worldwide has decreased by 3.5 percent in the last quarter of a century, the Vatican said, noting that the overall figure was affected by a sharp decrease in Europe - despite a rise of vocations in Africa. In its latest figures on the status of the Church worldwide, released Saturday, the Vatican examined changes between 1978 and 2004. Worldwide, the number of priests fell to 405,891 in 2004 from 420,971 in 1978 - a decrease of 3.5 percent. A Vatican statement described the decline as "rather disappointing."