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Iceland’s Catholic population is on the rise


Iceland’s progressive culture is contrasted by its Catholic growth.

The nation of Iceland has been found to have experienced a minor Catholic surge in the last 25 years. In 1994, it was estimated that only 1% or less of the population was Catholic, but a 2019 report cited their numbers at 4%. This increase has puzzled Lea Müller, of the Reykjavík Grapevine, who noted that Iceland is consistently found to be among the top 10 most progressive countries.

Müller suggests the reason for this increase revolves around Iceland’s continuous economic growth in recent years. With a number of expanding industries, Iceland has a surplus of jobs which has drawn immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries. Poland in particular has been estimated to have supplied 40% of Iceland’s immigrant population, followed by Lithuania. It is estimated that nearly all of Iceland’s Polish community is Catholic.

In Reykjavík, the Catholic church is bursting at the seams during Sunday Mass, but the priests continue to bring more and more of the community into the fold, as the church receives government funding based on its congregation.

While the Catholic population is growing, Lutheranism — historically the #1 religion in Iceland — is falling by the wayside. In the 1990s it was estimated that 90% of the country was Lutheran. More recent studies have cited that number down to 64%. While Catholicism is on the rise, religion as a whole in the progressive country is diminishing, although the reason for this decrease is unclear.

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