'Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation', said many newspaper headlines last week.
And the event that could ensure that Sunday attendance at RC churches tops that in Protestant denominations is the last three years of heavy migration from Roman Catholic countries, especially from Roman Catholic Poland and other eastern European countries.
As the numbers taking Mass soars, the current million or so Roman Catholics taking it is set to increase by hundreds of thousands over the coming decade. It will be a boost to many Roman Catholic parishes after years of generally declining numbers of communicants until the EU was enlarged from 15 states to 25 on 1 January 2004.
RC parishes in areas of unusually heave Roman Catholic immigration claim they have been 'overwhelmed'.
ROUND THE CLOCK MASSES
Migrants in difficulties over housing, work and benefits have swamped many Roman Catholic priests with their demands for help. A report by the Von Hugel Institute in Cambridge, commissioned by RC dioceses in London and the south east, found that huge numbers of migrants were settling in London, where some parishes were putting on 'round-the clock' Masses from 7am to 8pm to cope. A spokesman for the Polish community claimed that the Polish population of London had doubled to 600,000 in just two years.
A Church of England spokesman commented: "I don't think you can talk in terms of decline in the Church of England. It is fairly clear that with small fluctuations the worshipping population of the Church of England is 1.7 million a month. That is actually a stable figure". Figures for 2005 show that there are 25 million baptised Anglicans, 4.2 million Roman Catholics, and over 2 million Muslims.
THREAT TO PROTESTANT ULSTER
Meanwhile, the scale of Roman Catholic immigration into Northern Ireland could prove a threat to the Protestant, Loyalist majority there, according to a recent BBC report. Twenty five different nationalities have registered to vote in the coming Northern Ireland Assembly Election, according to the Electoral Office. Nearly 2,000 Poles have signed the electoral register, followed by 900 Portuguese, and nearly 800 Lithuanians. It is thought more than 6,000 foreign nationals may vote when Northern Ireland goes to the polls on 7 March. Any one who can prove residency in Northern Ireland for just three months is eligible to join the register.
PRIESTS 'HELPING REGISTRATION'
A magazine, Glosik, the brainchild of Polish business consultant Ewa Grosman, is aimed specifically at Northern Ireland's burgeoning, 30,000 plus Polish community. She said: "If we are thinking about 30,000 Polish people, even if 30% of those are voting it will have a major influence on the political landscape of Northern Ireland". It is believed that RC priests are actively helping the registration process.
BBC Northern Ireland Political Corresondent, Gate Gordon, said: "These immigrant communities are growing at such a rate that political parties can no longer afford to ignore them".