Catholic Church in Poland records 1.3% fall in Sunday Mass attendance in 2019

42904026010 c719d8a869 k Mass at Poznań Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Poland, on Jan 1, 2012. | Mazur/

The number of people attending Sunday Mass in Poland fell by 1.3% in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to new figures released Thursday.

The Polish bishops' conference announced Dec. 10 that 36.9% of the country's Catholics took part in Sunday Masses last year, compared with 38.2% in 2018.

The figures, compiled by the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics, showed that 16.7% of baptized Catholics received Holy Communion in 2019, a decrease of 0.6% from the previous year when 17.3% received the Eucharist.

The 1.3% fall in Sunday Mass attendance in Poland is likely to worry the country's bishops. Attendance also fell in 2018, but by 0.3% compared to the year before.

The Church lost unprecedented numbers of Catholics in other countries in Europe in 2019.

Earlier this month, bishops in Switzerland lamented a record exodus in 2019. The new figures revealed that the Catholic Church lost 31,772 members in last year -- equivalent to 1.1% of the total membership of the Catholic Church in Switzerland. 

A record number of Catholics also formally left the Church in Germany in 2019, according to official figures released in June. The statistics showed that 272,771 people exited the Catholic Church last year, a significant increase on the 2018 figure of 216,078.

Meanwhile in Austria, the number of people leaving the Church rose by 14.9% in 2019 compared to the previous year. A total of 67,583 people left in 2019, while 58,807 left in 2018.

The new figures showed that there were 372,900 baptisms in Poland in 2019, a decrease of almost 3.5% on 2018, when there were 386,000.

There were under 400,000 First Communions. There were also 382,500 Confirmations -- considerably more than in 2018 due a change in the age of administering the sacrament.

There were 125,000 church marriages in 2019, compared with 133,000 the year before.

Fr. Wojciech Sadłoń SAC, director of the statistics institute, said: "The presented data is a statistical picture of the Church in 2019, which a few months later will enter the unique situation of an epidemic." 

This year has not only seen the disruption of Masses due to the pandemic, but also widespread protests targeting the Church following a landmark court ruling on abortion. 

Sadłoń said: "The presented data indicate that the institutional framework of the Catholic Church in Poland is slightly weakening. After the period of intensive development of the structures and organization of the Church in Poland in the past decades, we entered the epidemic with a slightly weakening institutional strength."

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