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Report: The Italy That Really Goes to Mass

February 8, 2007

From Chiesa:

One of the facts that are thought to prove the tenacity and vitality of Catholicism in Italy is attendance at Sunday Mass. For more than thirty years, sociological findings have agreed in attesting to regular Mass attendance much higher than in other European countries: steady around 30 percent, to which must be added another 20 percent for those who go to Mass from once to three times a month, and another 30 percent for those who go on Christmas, Easter, and the other major feast days.

But do these high attendance figures really give an accurate picture of reality? The experts in religious sociology have, until now, always given credence to these data, which have been gathered repeatedly through interviews with a sample of the Italian population. If anything, it has been the priests who have expressed doubts and confusion on this point. It emerges from a survey among the clergy in Italy conducted in 2003 by Franco Garelli that many pastors believe that Mass attendance is not steady, but in decline, and estimate at around 20-22 percent the national average of those who go to Mass every Sunday, or 8-10 points lower than in the surveys.

Who is right? For the first time, a study has been conducted that permits responding to this question with a better understanding of the situation. The study involved the patriarchate of Venice, headed by cardinal Angelo Scola, a diocese with 365,000 inhabitants, a small portion of Italy. Thus the results cannot be extended automatically to the entire nation. But they are of great interest, partly because they reflect the results of similar studies of religious practice conducted in the United States and Great Britain….

Full report here.

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