Thursday, February 15, 2007

Catholicism No 1 Religion in UK

From the Times:
Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation because of massive migration from Catholic countries across the world.
Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years after managing years of decline, according to a new report, as both legal and illegal migrants enter the country.
It says that the influx of migrants could be the Catholic community’s “greatest threat” or its “greatest opportunity”.
While in some places the Catholic Church has responded positively, in others it has been “overwhelmed” by the scale of the challenge. The growth of Catholicism in Britain comes as the established Church of England and the Anglican provinces in Scotland, Wales and Ireland face continuing, if slow, decline.
The Catholic Church is the first port of call for thousands when they find themselves in difficulty, with up to 95 per cent from countries such as Poland being practising Catholics. Some churches find that they are being used as both job centres and social welfare offices. Most of the migrants settle in London, where some parishes are putting on Sunday Masses from 8am to 8pm to cope, the report, carried out by the Von Hugel Institute at Cambridge, found.
The report calls on the Catholic hierarchy to act urgently to help the migrants and their hard-pressed clergy by investing thousands of pounds in new resources.
Officially the Church is welcoming the migrants, but nearly all bishops and clergy have been taken by surprise by the influx, which took off last year and has yet to be reflected in official Mass attendance and membership figures.
But they acknowledge that the immigration is changingthe face of Catholicism across Britain.
From being an Irish-English church in a mindset of managing steady decline, the Church has within the space of 12 months found itself having to countenance an unprecedented expansion and change in its ethnic make-up.
Figures for 2005 show that there are 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, under one fifth the 25 million baptised Anglicans and double the number of Muslims.
But the real Mass attendance figure is higher by many hundreds of thousands. Precise numbers are impossible to obtain because of the irregular status of so many of the migrants, who prefer to keep a low profile. Some would only talk to researchers for the report through their priests, and some clergy even refused to be interviewed for fear of attracting attention.
It is vitally important that the British hierarchy and parishes deal with this influx well... The migrants attitutde to their faith will be influenced by the quality of the welcome they receive.

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