Survey reveals fall in number of Irish massgoers
The number of Catholics attending mass in Ireland has fallen significantly over the past five years, according to the results of a study announced last week.
Decline in faith was sharpest in rural areas - where loyalty to the Church is traditionally strongest.
Some 50% of Catholics questioned said they attended mass at least once a week, compared with 60% in 1998.
In rural areas there was a fall in weekly attendance from 77% five years ago to 60% today, while in urban parishes it fell from 48% to 43%.
The survey also disclosed that one in 20 Catholics do not believe that Jesus was the son of God.
Despite the survey findings, 87% of parents still said they want their children to be raised as Catholics.
And nearly half of those questioned (49%) said priests had a very important function in society. This was higher than the figure for solicitors (35%), politicians (22%) and journalists (20%).
Only a quarter said that priests should remain celibate.
Bishop Willie Walsh, of the diocese of Killaloe in Co Clare, said people had to recognise the changing role of faith in society.
"I think there is a greater freedom now amongst people to question beliefs and teaching of the Church," he said. "I think that of course one would like that everybody would believe every detail of Church teaching, but that would be to live in an unreal world."
The TNS/MRBI survey was conducted recently among 1000 adults over the age of 18.
The changing trends of religious practice in Ireland - a Prime Time poll (RTE News 'Prime Time')
Poll says Mass attendance, doctrinal belief down in Ireland (Catholic World News)
Irish Catholic Church Attendance Down (AP)
Dublin archbishop vows change for Irish Church (4/9/03)
'Church must regain its credibility' (Irish Catholic)
h must proclaim teachings in more sensitive ways (Irish Catholic)
29 Sep 2003