Church numbers: SA and Australia
Looking back at the history of the Church in South Africa and Australia – Australia fell under the Cape in South Africa in the early days – now, however, they have a large Catholic population, and constitute the largest denomination.
Kevin Andersson, Pietermaritzburg – I refer to Martin Keenan’s interesting letter (July 12) titled “Errors in history of Church in SA” concerning the reasons for Mauritius being the place of residency of Bishop Slater, “where the majority of his flock lived”.
What may be of more than academic interest is the absence of the appointment of a bishop to cover Australia and New Zealand (in the early days they fell under the jurisdiction of the Cape incumbent).
Is it possible this was due to there being insufficient Catholics among the “convicts” sentenced in Britain to live in Australia at that time?
Catholics in Australia have Increased
Be that as it may, the number of Catholics in Australia has inevitably increased, and for the past 27 years they have constituted the largest religious denomination in Australia, being 5439268, or 25,3%, of the total population in the last census (sadly down from 25.8% in 2006).
Of concern is that the second-largest group consists of those with no religion or those who refused to answer the optional religious question on the national census (22,3% of the population, or 4,7 million Australians, a growth of 3,6% since the last census five years ago).
Of the 5,4 million Catholics in Australia, 624 000 worship every Sunday and there are 1321 Catholic parishes, according to Fr Richard Leonard SJ in Why Bother Praying?
At this juncture we are reminded of the words of Billy Graham, that attendance at church does not make us Christians any more than living in a garage makes us a car.