Cathedrals are becoming a ray of hope in the gloomy picture of church decline in the UK as figures today reveal more people than ever attended their local cathedral at Christmas last year.
While fewer and fewer people regularly go to their local parish services, cathedrals are becoming central hubs of worship as weekly attendance remains steady and the numbers at Christmas hit an all-time high.
Around 130,900 people came to cathedrals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year – an increase of five per cent from 2015 and an overall rise of one per cent in the last decade.
In comparison the Christmas attendance in parish churches has fallen markedly since 2006 although it has risen slightly from a low in 2013.
Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, the lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said: 'Behind these figures lie stories of worship, learning, exploring faith and spirituality and encountering God at times of joy and despair.
'Through new forms of worship, bringing people of all faiths and none together, and serving the young and old alike, these amazing places continue to be at the heart of national life.'
Becky Clark, director of Churches and Cathedrals, said the figures were a 'testament to the hard work clergy, staff and volunteers put into making them welcoming and inspiring places'.
She said: 'These statistics show the enduring appeal of cathedrals as places of worship, pilgrimage, and tourism.'
She added: 'The last few years have been particularly busy, with substantial building and repair programmes at many cathedrals, ensuring these beautiful, complex historic buildings can continue to be at the heart of their communities.'