The Office for National Statistics 2011 census figures on religion published today show that the number of people self-identifying as Christian stands at 33.2 million (59%), down from 37.3 million (72%) in 2001.
In response to these figures, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said:
“The overall decrease in the number of self-identifying Christians is consistent with recent social attitude and social value surveys. While this is a challenge, the fact that six out of 10 people in England and Wales self-identify as Christians is not discouraging. Christianity is no longer a Religion of culture, but a Religion of decision and commitment. People are making a positive choice in self-identifying as Christians.
“While precise figures are difficult to determine, polling shows that the Catholic population has remained consistent at 9% of the total population for many years. Ipsos Mori research for Cafod in 2008 pointed to there being 5 million Catholics in England and Wales and around one million attend mass on a weekly basis.
“Catholics play a full part in the country’s social and cultural mix, serving the common good. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI at Westminster Cathedral during his visit in 2010 “How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a relationship with Jesus Christ.”