In the United Kingdom, new research has found that services offered by the Church of England are no longer the country’s most popular form of worship. The Press Association reports that Catholic churchgoers outnumber Anglicans for the first time since the Reformation.
A study conducted by Christian Research bases their findings on estimates for church attendance in 2006: 861,800 Catholics attended Mass every Sunday compared with 852,500 Anglicans worshipping weekly.
Peter Brierley, a former executive director of charity Christian Research who compiled the study, dismissed the idea that Britain is about to become a Catholic country for the first time since the Reformation in the 16th century. Brierley insisted that the Catholic Church will experience a more rapid rate of decline within two years.
Dr Brierley's study, based on figures obtained from half the 38,000 churches in England and Wales, did not, however, take into account the recent wave of Polish immigration which is likely to widen still further the gap between active members of the two denominations.
Some estimates put the number of Poles arriving in Britain at up to 100,000, 85 per cent of whom are Catholic. But he said the failure of the Government to provide accurate data on migration from Eastern Europe since 2005 made it impossible to include them in the study.
Attendance numbers have been stable since 2000 for the Church of England.