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Catholic Proportion Drops in Irish Census Figures

The percentage of Catholics in Ireland has dropped, while the number of Protestants has risen, according to the 2002 census figures released last week.

An extra 234,000 people describe themselves as Catholic, but the growth rate is lower than that of the population as a whole, which means that the proportion of Catholics in the Republic of Ireland fell from 91.6 percent in 1991 to 88.4 percent last year.

For the Protestant churches, the census figures suggest the end of a long decline, with the (Episcopalian) Church of Ireland adding 26,400 members, the Presbyterian Church an extra 7,400 and the Methodists an additional 5,000.

The largest increases are in religious groups which have experienced significant immigration over the past 10 years. The number of Muslims increased almost five-fold, from 3,900 in 1991 to 19,100 last year. There are now several mosques throughout Ireland, with a new mosque and Islamic school in the southern suburbs of Dublin.

The Orthodox community has grown from 400 to 10,400 over the same period because of large-scale immigration into Ireland from Russia and the Baltic States. Dublin opened its first Orthodox church last year.

The Jewish community also reversed a lengthy period of decline, increasing from 1,581 to 1,790 members. Only one synagogue still operates in Dublin.

But the biggest increase was in the category of those who professed no religion, which more than doubled. Almost 140,000 people – compared to 66,000 in the last census – said they had no faith. Another 1,000 claimed to be agnostic, while there were just 500 atheists out of a total population of almost 4 million.

Catholic World News

23 Jun 2003