The number of Catholics in the world increased by 12.5 million in 2015 to a total of nearly 1.3 billion people.

Figures reported by the Fides News Service show an increase on all continents, except Europe. Africa saw 7.4 million new Catholics, North and South America 4.8 million, Asia 1.6 million and Oceania 123,000. Europe’s Catholic population decreased by 1.3 million.

Despite the rise, the world percentage of Catholics decreased by 0.05 per cent to 17.72 per cent, due to the total world population growing at an even faster rate.

Oceania had the highest percentage increase at 0.24 per cent, however the percentage of people in North and South America identifying as Catholic decreased by 0.08 per cent despite a rise in the total number. The percentage of Europeans identifying as Catholic decreased by 0.21 per cent.

The data was released by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the run up to World Mission Day on Sunday 22 October.