Despite a fall in the number of people identifying as Christian, the fact almost half the population is still Christian means Jesus’ voice remains prominent in Australia, Archbishop Mark Coleridge has said.
On Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the first data from the 2021 Census. That included figures on religious affiliation, which show Catholics now make up 20 per cent of the population – down from 22.6 per cent in 2016.
Catholics, at almost 5.1 million people, remain the largest religious group by a significant margin, followed by Anglicans at 10 per cent.
“Almost half the population still identify as Christian, which means that Jesus is very much part of the mix in the Australian soul.” ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE
“That means his will remain a key voice as we work together to shape the life of the nation into the future.”
The combined Christian population is now 44 per cent. Those professing no religion comprise 39 per cent of those who answered the question on the Census.
Archbishop Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the decline in Catholic numbers was “no great surprise”.
“It’s been clear for some time that the Church is no longer the power in the land we once were,” he said.
“But we remain a large minority engaged far and wide in service of the community,” including in education, social services, health and aged care – as well as parish life.
“Almost half the population still identify as Christian, which means that Jesus is very much part of the mix in the Australian soul,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
The Census data already released shows that the number of Australians born overseas continues to grow, which brings with it increased cultural and religious diversity.
Archbishop Coleridge said many such immigrants are themselves Catholics, and “the Catholic community has been greatly enriched by people coming to Australia from elsewhere”.
The Bishops Conference’s National Centre for Pastoral Research will now commence its analysis of the data for those who self-identified as Catholics in the Census. That research is designed to help the Church better understand its people.
That information will be released, along with other key demographic data, later in the year.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.