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Catholics in Ireland returning to church

Recent figures show that mass attendance in Ireland is on the rise for the first time in almost four decades.

Priests across Dublin have reported an increase in worshippers attending mass on Sundays, while collections in the city have increased for the third year in a row. Nuns who bake altar breads say they are struggling to satisfy orders for thousands of extra pieces each week.

Fr Pat Guckian of St Canice's parish church in Finglas says middle-aged parishioners, who appeared to have abandoned religious practice, are now returning to the fold.

"I don't know why it is, but it's happening. Maybe it's God's grace," he said. "I think there has been a cut-off for some of them. They have definitively said, 'That's it', and decided they want a little more than just the satisfaction of the Celtic tiger."

Church personnel are cautiously hopeful that the resurgence marks a change in the fortunes of a church that has been dogged by scandals, falling vocations and dwindling numbers of the faithful for 30 years. Attendance levels were at 90% of the population during the early 1960s, but by the 1990s had fallen to just over 60%.

London Times