WA Catholics flock to Mass
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The number of Catholics in WA who attend weekly services has grown, defying a national trend showing Mass attendances elsewhere slumping to "critical" levels.

Despite an increase in the number of Catholics between 2006 and 2011, recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics during the Census, those regularly attending Mass has fallen 6.5 per cent nationwide.

But three WA dioceses were among just four of the 28 across the country to record an increase in parishioners attending weekly services.

Perth, Geraldton and Bunbury, along with Darwin, were the only places to record increases in attendance, growing by between 3 and 5 per cent.

The Census figures, analysed by the Pastoral Research Office, found Perth's Catholic population stood at 426,595 in 2011, up from 378,974 in 2006.

Yangebup, with 14,051 parishioners, was the biggest parish in WA, followed by Wanneroo with 11,397. The analysis comes after reports of big attendances at local Christmas services for both the Catholic and Anglican churches.

Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, who could not be contacted yesterday, said at the time that the midnight Mass had been packed. There had been many young people and people from different cultural backgrounds.

The PRO report found that the percentage of the Australian population identifying as Catholic had fallen to its lowest level nationally since the 1961 Census. In 2001, regular weekly Mass attendance was 15.3 per cent but had fallen to 13.8 per cent in 2006 and 10.6 per cent in 2011.

According to Catholic newspaper The Record, the report concluded by warning the Church had "reached a critical moment with regard to Mass attendance in Australia".

"The parish has been the bedrock of the Church in Australia but its survival in many parts of the country is no longer assured," it said.

The PRO report found people who attended Mass tended to be older and better educated, and were more likely to be female and born overseas than the Catholic population as a whole.

The 2011 National Church Life Survey results suggested those who attend Mass had increased the financial support they gave over the past five years.

Forty-seven per cent said they gave $10 or more a week to their parish.

In 2006, 41 per cent said they gave $10 a week or more.

The West Australian

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