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Church attendance

Data on religious beliefs is mainly from the European Social Survey (ESS) and the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). Much of this data, for Catholics, is published and updated on the research section of the website of Catholic Bishops conference and to which readers may refer for more information.

Church attendance by Catholics

In the European Social Survey (ESS, 4, 2009/10), the percentage of Catholics in the Republic of Ireland attending Mass at least weekly was 51.6 %. This average figure is much lower for younger age groups (see “ Practice and Belief among Catholics in the Republic of Ireland" by Eoin O’Mahony, Council for Research & Development (Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 2011).

Table: % Attendance by Catholics at religious services apart from special occasions:

ESS Every day More than once a week Once a week At least once a month Only on special holy days Less often never
2002 4.4 8.4 50.3 14.3 9.6 9.0 3.9
2004 5.0 10.8 47.0 14.1 10.1 10.2 2.8
2006 3.6 8.9 43.6 16.4 10.1 13.0 4.3
2009 3.5 6.0 42.1 20.9 11.9 12.4 3.2

Source: “ Practice and Belief among Catholics in the Republic of Ireland : A summary of data from the ESS Round 4(2009/10) and the ISSP III (2008/9) by Eoin O’Mahony, Council for Research & Development (Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 2011, Table 2 page 6).

In the 1970s and 1980s reported weekly attendance for Catholics was close to 90%. By the late 1990s it had fallen to two thirds.

Level of church attendance of Catholics, 1974, 1984, 1999 and 2003:

Level of attendance 1974198419992003
% % % %
At least once a week 90.9 86.9 65.0 50
At least once a month 3.4 4.3 11.0 -
Less than monthly 3.0 5.9 19.0 -
Never 2.7 2.9 5.0 -
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 -
n 2499 1006 884 1.000

Sources: 1974 and 1984 reproduced from Breslin and Weafer, Religious beliefs, Practice and Attitudes: A Comparison of Two Irish Surveys 1974-1984, Maynooth: Council for Research and Development, 1985; 1999 reproduced from Fahey et al., A Study of Values and attitudes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2005 ; 2003 taken from an RTE/Prime Time Survey.

D 21 September 2012    ARichard O’Leary

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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