Church Attendance Rises as Economy Falls

Irish Institute Reports Resilience of Young Mass-Goers

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By Genevieve Pollock

DUBLIN, Ireland, NOV. 2, 2009 ( More people are going to Church more often during the economic recession, the Iona Institute for Religion and Society reported today.

David Quinn, director of the Dublin-based institute, told ZENIT that these findings confirm the anecdotal evidence from some priests who have been observing increased Mass attendance, as well as greater contributions to Church collections, since the start of the economic crisis.

“Regular Mass-goers are seeing something similar,” he affirmed.

The institute reported today the conclusions of a new poll, which showed that two-thirds of people in Ireland attend church at least monthly. This figure has significantly increased from the 54% of people who reported monthly church attendance last year.

Although the poll did not specifically distinguish between religions, Quinn explained that “because Ireland is overwhelmingly Catholic we can safely assume the great bulk of the increase is being experienced by the Catholic Church.”

He noted that “the only big change in Ireland over the last 12-18 months has been the economic collapse,” leading researchers to correlate this event with the rise in church attendance.

“In fact,” Quinn added, “the big Church story of the last year was the publication in May of the Ryan report on child abuse by religious orders,” and yet “the increase has taken place despite this.”

He clarified that “no one can say for sure” that the economic downturn is the cause of increased church attendance. However, he noted that the “increase among those who say they go at least monthly is very striking and outside the margin of error.”

Importance of religion

“The increase in the weekly attendance figure is also significant,” the director stated.

Almost half of the Irish attend Church weekly, a number that is up 4% from 42% last year. Only 1% of those surveyed reported that they never go.

Quinn affirmed: “Obviously, no religious leader is going to welcome the recession because it may have had this effect on church attendance. However, taken on its own, the findings will be widely welcomed by those who believe in the importance of religion.”

He also underlined the findings on young people who attend church, stating: “It’s assumed that very few young people go to Mass or other religious services. This simply isn’t true.”

Among those aged 18 to 24, some 31% reported attending church weekly, and another 22% stated that they go monthly or more. In comparison, 70% of those over 65 years of age attend church every week.

Quinn affirmed that “the question facing Ireland is whether Mass attendance will drop to the sort of levels we see in say, Britain (about 15%), or in America or Italy (approximately 40% or 30% respectively).”

“Obviously as older people die Mass attendance will drop,” he acknowledged, “but I’m now optimistic that figures won’t drop to the very low levels we see in some parts of the continent.”

Quinn concluded that among the Irish, the number of church-goers is “proving to be remarkably resilient.”

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