The Church has welcomed tens of thousands of new faithful in the last four years

Norway’s official statistics agency says the country’s Catholic community has added tens of thousands of members in recent years while the state Lutheran Church is declining.

Statistics Norway said on Friday that the number of Catholics had jumped 42 per cent since 2012, to 145,000 this year.

Membership in Islamic groups also rose by 32 per cent to 148,000 in the same period.

The statistics showed Norway’s tiny Jewish community had just 770 members at the start of 2016.

The changes reflect Norway’s growing diversity amid migration from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The Lutheran Church’s own statistics show it lost nearly 37,000 members in 2015. It remains Norway’s biggest religious group, with 3.8 million members, about 73 per cent of the population.

Christianity arrived in Norway in the year 900 with Anglo-Saxon missionaries.

However, one major Norway diocese, the Diocese of Oslo, has reportedly been fined 1m kroner (about £115,000) for inflating the size of its membership to receive more state aid.

According to AFP, Oslo prosecutors say the diocese, which is responsible for maintaining the records of Catholics living in Norway,
went through telephone directories looking for immigrants with names that appeared to orginate from Catholic countries and adding them to the list of members between 2011 and 2014. These people reportedly often had no knowledge they were being put down as members of the Church.