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Catholics to become largest group of churchgoers in Scotland

Immigration may be behind the latest findings (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church is likely to become the largest churchgoing denomination in Scotland.

Figures from the 2016 Scottish Church Census reveal that the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland both make up 35 per cent of the churchgoing population, but that the Catholic proportion is expanding.

The report found 135,600 weekly Catholic Mass attenders compared to 136,910 attending Church of Scotland services. The figures also showed a total of 389,510 weekly attenders of churches of any denomination.

Peter Brierley, who conducted the study, told the Scottish Catholic Observer the Catholic Church would have the most Sunday churchgoers if trends continued.

“The Catholic Mass-attending population has dropped,” he said. “If you look at Glasgow it was 48,000 in 2002; it’s now 38,570, but not as much as the wider Christian population. The numbers have gone down, but not as much as other populations.”

Only nine per cent of the Scottish population are now churchgoers. The Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal church have the highest rate of falling attendees. In the past 30 years, the number of Christians who attend church has halved.

Brierley suggested that the Catholic Church had not declined as fast as other churches because of immigration.

“A lot of immigrants have come into Scotland in the last 10-15 years and the Catholic Church has reached out to them, putting on Polish Masses and so on,” he said. “That’s especially apparent in Aberdeen, where the Catholic population went up in the last five years – the only place in Scotland that happened – largely because of the incoming Polish population.”