Census data shows decline in number of Catholics in Australia

Last month the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the first data from the 2021 Census, which shows a decline in the number of Catholics in Australia, who make up 20 per cent of the population.

Although down by approximately 2.6 per cent from the 2016 Census, Catholics remain the largest religious group in Australia with more than five million people.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said the decline in Catholic numbers was “no great surprise”.

However, he added that Catholics remain a key voice in shaping the future of the nation.

“It’s been clear for some time that the Church is no longer the power in the land we once were,” he said.

“But we remain a large minority engaged far and wide in service of the community,” including in education, social services, health and aged care – as well as parish life.

“Almost half the population still identify as Christian, which means that Jesus is very much part of the mix in the Australian soul,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“That means his will remain a key voice as we work together to shape the life of the nation into the future.”

The data showed 43.9 per cent of Australians identify as Christian, a large decline from the 52.1 per cent in 2016, and from more than 60 per cent in 2011.

The National Centre for Pastoral Research, an agency of ACBC, will now commence its analysis of the data for those who self-identified as Catholics in the Census.

The aim of the project is to help the Church better understand its people, with the information to be released later in the year.

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