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Facts and Figures

Catholic Population

How many Catholics are there in Australia?

According to the 2001 Australian Census, the Catholic population was 5,001,624 or 26.6% of the total Australian population.

Mass attendance

How many Catholics go to Mass on Sundays?

In 2001, about 15.3% of all Australian Catholics attended Mass on a typical Sunday. Most of those attended Mass every Sunday, so that the percentage of Catholics attending Mass at least once a month is about 16%, only a little higher than the weekly figure (Dixon 2005, p. 95).

Dioceses and Parishes

How many dioceses are there in Australia?

There are 32 dioceses in Australia. (A diocese is a section of the Church entrusted to the leadership of a bishop.) There are twenty-eight dioceses based on territorial divisions, three dioceses of Eastern Catholic Churches and one military diocese, where the bishop’s responsibility is the pastoral care of Catholic members of the Australian Defence Forces and their families.

How many parishes are there?

The 2005 Official Directory lists 1363 parishes, including 29 belonging to Eastern Catholic Churches.

What are Eastern Catholic Churches?

Almost all of Australia's five million Catholics belong to what is called the Latin Rite or the Western Catholic Church, but there are also a small number of Catholics who belong to Eastern Catholic Churches, often called Eastern Rites. The three largest Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia are the Maronite, Melkite and Ukrainian, each of which has been established as a diocese (or eparchy), with a bishop (or eparch) who is a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. As well as these three Eastern Catholic Churches, there are also six others that have clergy resident in Australia. These are the Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian, Syro-Malabar, Coptic and Russian Catholic Churches. There are probably Catholics belonging to other Eastern Rites as well, but they do not gather as distinct, organised Churches (Dixon 2005, p. 49).


How many priests are there in Australia?

The number of priests in Australia in 2005 is 3126, made up of 1973 diocesan priests and 1153 priests belonging to religious orders (Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia 2005/2006, pp.586). Of the diocesan priests, the directory lists 426 as retired. (Diocesan priests belong to a locality called a diocese and are responsible to the bishop of the diocese (or archdiocese), while religious order priests belong to groups such as the Jesuits, Franciscans or Salesians and are responsible to the leaders of the order. There are about 40 orders of priests in Australia.)

How does this number compare with the past?

The number of priests in Australia peaked at 3895 in 1971, and was above 3800 from 1968 till the early 1980s. There has been a decline in numbers of around 20% between 1971 and 2005.

What is the age profile of priests?

There is no complete profile on the age of Australian priests available. A 1996 study found that the average age of diocesan priests working in parishes was 56 years. Figures published by the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia's largest diocese in terms of number of priests, showed that the average age of diocesan priests on appointment (i.e., not including retired priests) had risen from 44 in 1977 to 60 by 2001.

How many men are training to be priests?

In 2005, according to the Official Catholic Directory, there were 141 young men training to be priests in Australia's diocesan seminaries (ie, not including those training to be religious order priests). In contrast, there were 546 in 1969. By 1991, that figure had dropped to 172, and it has remained around that mark since then, although it fluctuates somewhat from year to year.

What is the ratio of Catholics to each priest in Australia, and how does that compare with the rest of the world?

In Australia in 2001, there were 1536 Catholics for every priest. According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the number of Catholics per priest by continent in 2003 was as follows:

  • Africa 4723
  • South America 7128
  • North America 1420
  • Asia 2407
  • Europe 1386
  • Oceania 1745
  • World 2677

Religious Sisters and Brothers

How many religious sisters and brothers are there in Australia?

In 2005, there are about 6400 religious sisters and 1080 religious brothers in Australia. The sisters belong to orders, or congregations, such as the Josephites (founded by Mary MacKillop), the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Family Care Sisters, and many others. In all, there are over 100 congregations of women religious in Australia and five congregations of brothers, including the Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers and the De La Salle Brothers.

From: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Projects Office. Copyright © 2005


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