Pope factor helps to swell numbers at at RC cathedral

The Cathedral of St Marie  in Sheffield with its rennovations almost completed. Father Chris Posluszny admires the finished work.

The Cathedral of St Marie in Sheffield with its rennovations almost completed. Father Chris Posluszny admires the finished work.

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Attendances at St Marie’s Cathedral and other Roman Catholic churches in Sheffield are increasing - thought to be among the biggest surge of interest in Catholic worship in the country.

Numbers at St Marie’s four Sunday masses have gone up by at least 10% to 630 over the last two-and-a-half years, and once the growth of ethnic church groups, such as those for African and Latin American communities, is taken into account, the rise is something like 23%.

Church leaders are also encouraged by the involvement of young people. A group of 40 to 50 will take to the streets on Saturday night next weekend to invite other young people to light a candle and say a prayer at St Marie’s. About 250 people were attracted last time.

A Catholic revival after decades of decline and the paedophile priest scandals is mirrored across the country and other parts of Europe.

A Sunday Times survey found that of 13 Catholic cathedrals that responded to a request for information, 11 reported a rise in attendance, with the largest in Leeds (35%) and Sheffield (23%).

St Marie’s in Norfolk Row is welcoming more visitors after its refurbishment. Some are from Eastern Europe.

But Father Chris Posluszny, the dean, said the visit to the UK by Pope Benedict in 2010 had strengthened confidence in the church and this had grown under Pope Francis, who has won admirers for his down-to-earth approach.

Churches in places such as Attercliffe and Wybourn were seeing a revival driven partly by ethnic groups,

“It’s not just the cathedral,” said Father Chris. “We are finding a surprising response and willingness for people to come in and talk about things.”