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Frequently Asked Questions

Catholic Population

How many Catholics are there in Australia?

According to the 2006 Australian Census, the Catholic population was 5,126,884 or 25.8% of the total Australian population.

Between 2001 and 2006, the number of Catholics increased, but the proportion of Catholics in the population fell slightly. In 2001, 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 2006, about 709,000 people, or 13.8% of all Australian Catholics, attended Mass on a typical Sunday. We know from the 2006 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 2001, about 15.3% of Catholics attended Mass on a typical Sunday.

Dioceses and Parishes

How many dioceses are there in Australia?

There are 33 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, four 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 2009-10 Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia lists 1349, including 34 belonging to Eastern Catholic Churches. The 2007-08 Official Directory lists 1363 parishes, including 30 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 four largest Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia are the Maronite, Melkite, Ukrainian and Chaldean, 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 four Eastern Catholic Churches, there are also five others that have clergy resident in Australia. These are the Armenian, 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 2009 was 3085 (3178 in 2007), made up of 1948 (1996/07) diocesan priests and 1137 (1182/07) priests belonging to religious orders (Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia 2009-2010, pp.735). Of the diocesan priests, the directory lists 495 (424/07) 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 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 3895 in 1971, and was above 3800 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 3%.

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 2009, according to the Official Catholic Directory (p 736), there were 221 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 1613 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:

  • Africa 4759
  • South America 7139
  • North America 1560
  • Asia 2290
  • Europe 1457
  • Oceania 1931
  • World 2809

Religious Sisters and Brothers

How many religious sisters and brothers are there in Australia?

The 2009-10 Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia records that there are 5786 religious sisters and 930 religious brothers in Australia. In 2007, there were about 5700 religious sisters and 1020 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's Pastoral Projects Office (Contact PPO) , or the Christian Research Association

The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia: July 2009-June 2010 (National Council of Priests of Australia, 2009). 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:

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