Australian Catholic Mass attendance declines, but youth engaged

Mass attendance

A new report shows Australian Catholic Mass attendance has significantly declined, with recent surveys indicating a steep drop from 2016 to 2021.

The proportion of Catholics attending Mass fell from 11.8% to 8.2%, representing a drop of around a third (from 623,400 to 417,350) over the five-year period.

“The Australian Catholic Mass Attendance Report 2021” acknowledges the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions as a major factor in the decline.

The report also acknowledges that demographic changes within the Catholic population play a role.

However, the picture is not entirely bleak.

The report details a rise in online Mass participation, a trend likely fuelled by pandemic restrictions.

This suggests the Church is adapting to changing preferences and to finding new ways to connect with worshippers.

Increase in youth attending Mass

The report also showed an unexpected increase in the number of young people attending Mass.

The proportion of attendees aged 18-29 declined between 2006 and 2016 but showed an upward trend in 2021. This cohort increased numerically by 4,000 attendees between 2016 and 2021.

“While older age groups cautiously returned to normal patterns of engagement, this may have had a contrasting impact on those in the younger age groups who were eager to reintegrate into society following a period of restrictions and lockdowns” said Dr Trudy Dantis, a director at National Centre for Pastoral Research.

“Participating in Mass at the parish may have provided a chance for social engagement while other such options may have still been unavailable.

“Since 2021, some parishes have experienced a growth in Mass attendance as COVID-19 presented opportunities for them to adapt and cultivate more involvement.”

Interestingly, while most dioceses reported declines, some Eastern Catholic eparchies showed growth.

The Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St Thomas saw a 76% increase in attendance and the Syro-Malabar Eparchy reported a 90% rise.

These increases reflect the influence of recent migrants who actively participate in their faith communities.

Online attendance growing

The survey also highlighted Australia’s multicultural Catholic community, with Mass being celebrated in 42 different languages. This diversity points to a vibrant, albeit changing, religious landscape.

Online Mass attendance has emerged as a significant trend in Australian Catholicism.

The growth is likely due, in part, to the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the convenience and accessibility of online services may also be attracting those who face challenges attending Mass in person.

Of the 35 dioceses, eparchies and ordinariates for which data was received, 26 offered online Masses at least once during the period of the count.

The next Australian national count of Mass attendance will be in 2026.


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Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

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News category: World.

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