Receptions into Roman Catholicism

Adult receptions into the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales will be significantly up on 2010, to judge by attendances at last weekend’s Rite of Election and tabulated in a press release from the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference posted at:

The Rite of Election is an important part of the process called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Usually presided over by the diocesan bishop, it inaugurates the final period of preparation before formal reception into the Catholic Church.

The Rite of Election is attended both by those who are preparing for baptism into the Catholic Church and those who have already been baptised in another Christian denomination and now want to be received into the Catholic Church.

3,931 individuals participated in the Rite of Election at Catholic cathedrals in 2011, representing an increase of 14% on the 2010 total of 3,450. Numbers varied significantly by diocese, with a notable concentration in and around London. Westminster recorded most attendances (829), followed by Southwark (517) and Brentwood (362).

These statistics apparently exclude attendances at the Rite of Election held in parish churches. In some dioceses the distance between parish churches and cathedrals precludes everybody preparing to become a Catholic from being present at the gathering in the cathedral. This means that liturgies will also have taken place in some parish churches.

In addition, and for the first time, 795 individuals attended the Rite of Election in cathedrals who plan to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, set up by Pope Benedict XVI to accommodate disaffected Anglicans.

The Diocese of Brentwood heads this Ordinariate list (with 240), followed by Southwark (167) and Birmingham (100). Eleven of the 22 dioceses, predominantly in northern England and Wales, had no people joining the Ordinariate who were present at the Rite of Election.

Total receptions into the Ordinariate are estimated by the Bishops’ Conference at 900, including 61 former Anglican clergy (besides the five who have already been ordained as Catholic priests). They will be received into the Catholic Church during Holy Week, whereas those not preparing to join the Ordinariate will be received at Easter.

Some of the Catholic media’s reporting of these forthcoming receptions has been a little over-hyped, not least the headline in The Universe for 20 March which proclaims: ‘Thousands of Anglicans set to join with the faith at Easter’.

These receptions are, of course, a tiny fraction of the Catholic population of England and Wales (see Siobhan McAndrew’s post at for Catholic statistics in general).

Also, there are counterbalancing losses from Roman Catholicism, both lapsation to the ‘outside world’ and conversion to other denominations (including a trickle of Catholic laity and even priests to the Church of England).

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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