.- The number of people attending Mass in the Archdiocese of Boston has risen slightly since widespread church closings began in 2003, archdiocesan officials reported.
Last year, 319,559 Catholics attended mass regularly, up from 316,811 in 2003. During the same period, the number of parishes fell from 357 to 303. The bulk of the closings occurred in 2004, but mass attendance that year was 321,908 — higher than in 2005.
The 2005 statistics show that just 17 percent of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston regularly attend mass, compared with 34 percent of Catholics nationwide who say they attend church weekly, reported the Associated Press.
The steady attendance through the closings was a validation of the archdiocese's closing plan, Kathleen Heck of the archdiocese told the Associated Press. Fifteen parishes remain to be closed.
As well, the archdiocese's current Catholic population dropped more than 11 percent, falling below two million for the first time in 15 years, Church officials said.
However, diocesan officials admitted that the methods used to tabulate attendance numbers are not scientific, nor are they consistent from year to year.