The COVID-19 pandemic markedly influenced the scale of Sunday Mass attendance and the sacramental life of Polish Catholics – show the more recent statistics compiled in the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae in Polonia of the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics SAC for 2021.

The survey of Sunday practices in 2021 took place on September 26, when government directives and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic were in force: the faithful were allowed to occupy half of all seats in church pews (the limit did not apply to fully vaccinated persons) and the obligation to cover the mouth and nose was in operation.

Hence, the data on the dominicantes (people attending Sunday Mass) and the communicantes (people taking Holy Communion) are not conclusive. Despite the situation, which clearly distorts the results, the Polish Institute for Catholic Church Statistics decided to carry out the study to retain an annual rhythm of gathering statistical data.

During the restrictions in place on the day the survey was conducted, the percentage of the dominicantes was 28.3%, while the communicantes were 12.9%. Traditionally, the highest rate of the dominicantes was found in the Dioceses of Tarnów (59.1%), Rzeszów (49.7%) and Przemyśl (46.9%). The highest rate of the communicantes was identified in the Diocese of Tarnów (21.9%), followed by the Diocese of Białystok (19.2%) and Drohiczyn (18.4%). All the data can be found in the statistics annual of the Polish Institute for Catholic Church Statistics.

In 2021, there was an increase in the number of sacraments administered. The sacrament of Baptism was administered to 315,000 people, an increase of more than 1 per cent compared to 2020. The number of people receiving First Holy Communion also increased in 2021 and totalled 331,700, an increase of 11.3 per cent year on year. As many as 265,700 people received the sacrament of Confirmation, another increase on the year before. An increase was also observed in the number of sacramental marriages – a total of 103,900.

In 2021, there were 10,352 Catholic parishes in Poland, of which 672 were run by religious orders.

There were 23,984 priests incardinated into dioceses in 2021, down by more than 200 priests from the previous year. The highest number of priests was in the Diocese of Tarnów (1,512), Krakow (1,145) and Katowice (1,007). The smallest dioceses in terms of the number of priests (not including the Diocese for the Military Forces) were Drohiczyn (253), Elbląg (262) and Ełk (302).

The number of diocesan student priests in 2021 was 1,300, a significant decrease compared to the preceding year (with as many as 1,600 student priests). The largest number of diocesan seminarians is preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the Dioceses of Warsaw (100), Tarnów (98) and Poznań (51).

According to data from the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, there were 2,032 active congregation houses in 2021, which gathered a total of 16,300 nuns. In 2020, female congregations had a total of nearly 16,800 sisters, confirming a progressive year-on-year decline in the number of nuns.

The total number of active female congregations was 105. The most numerous female religious orders in Poland are: the Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Starowiejsk, the Elizabethan Sisters and the Daughters of Charity. Nearly 1,900 sisters in 2021 worked outside Poland.

Data on the male congregations shows that in 2021 the number of religious and members of societies of apostolic life totalled 10,703. 26% of the religious of the Polish provinces were abroad. The most numerous male congregations in 2021 were the Franciscans, Salesians and Pallottines.

In the 2021/22 school year, 82% of pupils attended Religious Education classes in all types of educational institutions, a decrease of 3.3 percentage points year-on-year. The highest percentage of pupils attending RE lessons at school was recorded in the Dioceses of Tarnów (97%), Przemyśl (97%) and Rzeszów (96%), and the lowest attendance was recorded in the Dioceses of Wrocław (63%) and Warsaw (66%).

In 2021, there were 2,360 family life counselling centres, collaborating with nearly 4,000 counsellors. There were also 121 Catholic specialist family counselling centres operating in Polish dioceses; they provided support to over 34,000 people.

Translated by M. Turski / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference