Common Questions About Catholics

Catholic Population

How many Catholics are there in Australia?

According to the 2011 Australian Census, the Catholic population was 5,439,267 or 25.3% of the total Australian population.

Between 2006 and 2011, the number of Catholics increased, but the proportion of Catholics in the population fell slightly. In 2006, the Catholic population was 5,126,884 or 25.8% of the total Australian population.


Mass attendance

How many Catholics go to Mass on Sundays?

In 2011, about 662,000 people, or 12.2% of all Australian Catholics, attended Mass on a typical Sunday. We know from the 2011 National Church Life Survey that most people who attend Mass go every Sunday, so that the percentage of Catholics attending Mass at least once a month is just over 15%, only a little higher than the weekly figure.

In 2006, about 13.8% of Catholics attended Mass on a typical Sunday


Dioceses and Parishes

How many dioceses are there in Australia?

There are 34 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, five 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 2014-15 Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia lists 1359, including 47 belonging to Eastern Catholic Churches.

What are Eastern Catholic Churches?

Almost all of Australia’s five-and-a-half 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 five largest Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia are the Maronite, Melkite, Ukrainian, Chaldean and Syro-Malabar, 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 five Eastern Catholic Churches, there are also four others that have clergy resident in Australia. These are the Armenian, Syrian, 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 2014 was 3,053 (3,073 in 2013), made up of 1,884 diocesan priests and 1,169 priests belonging to religious orders (Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia 2014-2015, pp.791). (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 their 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 3,895 in 1971, and was above 3,800 from 1968 till the early 1980s. There has been a decline in numbers of around 18% between 1971 and 2007. Since 2007, the figure has dropped another 4%.

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 2014, according to the Official Catholic Directory (p 792), there were 226 young men training to be priests in Australia’s diocesan seminaries (i.e. 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?

The 2007-2008 Official Catholic Directory shows that there were 1,613 Catholics for every priest in Australia. According to the 2007 Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the number of Catholics per priest by continent was as follows:

Australia 1,613
Africa 4,759
South America 7,139
North America 1,560
Asia 2,290
Europe 1,457
Oceania 1,931
World 2,809


Religious Sisters and Brothers

How many religious sisters and brothers are there in Australia?

The 2014-15 Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia records that there are 4,973 religious sisters and 784 religious brothers in Australia. In 2007, there were about 5,700 religious sisters and 1,020 religious brothers in Australia. The sisters belong to orders, or congregations, such as the Josephites (founded by Mary McKillop), 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.



The Catholic Community in Australia, Robert E. Dixon (Open Book, 2005) This book is available from the ACBC National Centre for Pastoral Research  (Contact NCPR) , or the Christian Research Association

The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia: 2014-2015 (National Council of Priests of Australia, 2014). The annual directory is available from NCP National Office or Tel: (03) 5244 3680

For more census data:

For more information about Australian Catholic dioceses: Dioceses Information in Australia.