The United State’s Catholic population stood at 58.9 million in 2010, according to a new census of religious congregations. This figure is lower than the 62 million Catholics reported in 2000.
Rhode Island has also been stripped of its title has most heavily Catholic state in the United States being replaced by Massachusetts.
Cliff Grammich, a researcher working for the Glenmary Research Center, told the Catholic News Service this difference was due to a change in the way data was collected during this go-round. The center compiled statistics from 20,589 parishes, missions and other places with regularly scheduled weekend Masses.
The “2010 US Religion Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study” showed that the number of Catholics is three times that of the country's second largest religious body, the Southern Baptist Convention, with nearly 19.9 million members.
The study is conducted every ten years and coincides US census.
It also collected data from Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious congregations.
Grammich said the analyzed statistics provided by individual parishes on the number of registered households, registered individuals, infant baptisms, burials and Mass attendance to arrive at the final count.
"The counts are the best that could be supported by religious data, sacramental statistics and survey data," Grammich explained.
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