The diminishment of those who claim Catholicism as their faith, a trend that has gripped much of the Western world, has begun to emerge in Poland. New data from Statistics Poland (GUS)has found that the number of Polish people who identify as Catholic has fallen by nearly a fifth.
According to the data, provided by Notes from Poland, the number of Catholics in Poland has fallen to 27.1 million (71.3%), down from 33.7 million (87.6%) in the previous census. This shrinking of the Catholic faith, however, seems to be somewhat regional. Eastern provinces seem to have retained much of their Catholic population: Subcarpathia (82.9%), Świętokrzyskie (81.2%), and Lublin (80.7%). Meanwhile West Pomerania (64.5%), Lower Silesia (65.3%) and Pomerania (67.2%) were among the areas with the lowest number of Catholics.
While the Church in Poland is shrinking, however, many of those who are leaving are not seeking a faith life elsewhere. The portion of Poland that does not claim any religion, a group often referred to as “nones,” has nearly tripled from 2.4% in 2011 to 6.9% in 2021. People also seem less eager to talk about their faith in 2021, with the number of those who refused to answer questions of their faith mirrored the “nones,” nearly tripling from 7.1% to 20.5%.
The most dramatic decline in those who identified themselves as religious was seen in the younger generations. In the 1992 census, 69% of young adult Poles said they practiced their faith regularly. This figure has fallen to just 23% in the 2021 census. Notes from Poland pointed to a previous report in which Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno called the decline of faith practice in young people “devastating.”
As would be expected, Mass attendance was also seen to diminish in Poland. In 2019, just prior to the pandemic, 37% of Catholics reported attending Mass weekly. In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, only 28% of Catholics reported practicing their faith weekly. The report admitted that the 2021 figure could be skewed by the closure of churches during the pandemic years. It did not include post-pandemic figures on Mass attendance.