Dublin City Council unable to determine the number of places of worship

It is impossible to know the exact number of places of religious worship in Dublin, according to Dublin City Council.

The recent announcement about the arrival of the Church of Scientology’s European Headquarters in Firhouse has raised the question of what other religious institutions are operating in the city and, if so, how many there are and where are they.

In order for a building’s usage purpose to change (for example from residential to business or residential to religious), the owner must apply through Dublin City Council for permission.

There have been over fifteen applications, mostly proposed by minority religious groups since 2004 and the majority of these were accepted. There have also been over 35 cases where buildings have been used as unauthorised places of worship, but no record of the type of religion or faith has been kept.

While there is no official register for religious places of worship, it is possible to accurately estimate the number of active places of worship for some of Ireland’s larger religious denominations. Based on the CSO data for religious worship, the biggest religious denominations include Roman Catholicism, Islam, Orthodox, Presbyterian and Hindu.

Over 220 Catholic churches list their services for use online.  However, this figure is probably inflated by non-active sites of worship which are still open to the public for tourism and other use. The Catholic Directory, a site which aims to help people find churches which perform mass, lists 60 active churches in the Dublin area (but there are probably more).

There are two Presbyterian churches in Dublin and five Orthodox churches, which include Greek Orthodox and Romanian Orthodox.

There are twelve mosques in Dublin for followers of Islam. According to census information, Islam is the fastest growing non-Catholic religion in Ireland, followed by the Orthodox tradition.

For places of worship for those of the Jewish faith, there are two sites. One is the Progressive Jewish Congregation, the other being the Dublin Hebrew Congregation which cater to their own communities.

There are two centres of Hindu worship as well as six centres for Buddhist worship.

It is not surprising that Catholic places of worship vastly outweigh other religious denominations, but other religions are opening new churches in Dublin, whereas the Catholic church has if anything, been closing them.

Falling numbers of those attending mass as well as dwindling numbers of diocesan priests are forcing the closure of churches around the country.  Since 1972, mass attendance has fallen from 91% to 30% in 2016. According to The Irish Catholic, the number of priests fell 16% between 2004 and 2014 while applications to join the priesthood have rarely reached double figures since the year 2000.

As more people enter Ireland from different countries and cultures they will, of course, take their religion and beliefs with them and we can expect to see more churches from non-Catholic denominations in the future.

By Chris Kelly

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