A record number of Catholics formally left the Church in Germany in 2019, according to official figures released Friday.
The statistics issued June 26 showed that 272,771 people exited the Catholic Church last year, a significant increase on the 2018 figure of 216,078.
In a June 26 statement, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, said that he did not wish to “gloss over” the figures.
He said: “Of course, the declines are also due to demographics, but they also show first of all the fact that, despite our concrete pastoral and social actions, we no longer motivate a large number of people for Church life.”
“I find the very high number of people leaving the Church particularly burdensome. We regret every departure from the Church and we invite everyone who has left or wants to leave to talk to us. The number of people leaving the Church shows that the alienation between Church members and a life of faith in the Church community has become even stronger.”
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a body representing 20 Protestant groups, also released its annual statistics June 26. It reported that its membership fell from 21.14 million in 2018 to 20.7 million in 2019, a drop of 440,000.
According to the new figures, the number of Catholics in the country decreased from 23 million in 2018 to 22.6 million in 2019.
Catholics now account for 27.2% of Germany’s population of almost 84 million, down from 27.7% in 2018.
The proportion of Catholics attending church services has fallen to its lowest level, with 9.1% attending in 2019, compared to 9.3% in the previous year.
Formal departures from the Catholic Church in Germany are sometimes motivated by a desire to avoid the country’s church tax. If an individual is registered as a Catholic then 8-9% of their income tax goes to the Church. The only way they can stop paying the tax is to make an official declaration renouncing their membership. They are no longer allowed to receive the sacraments or a Catholic burial.
Meanwhile, the number of admissions to the Church fell from 2,442 in 2018 to 2,330 in 2019, while readmissions decreased from 6,303 to 5,339 in the same period.
In 2019, church marriages declined by 10%, Confirmations by 7% and First Communions by 3%, according to the website of the Catholic Church in Germany.
The number of baptisms also fell from 167,787 in 2018 to 159,043 in 2019.
In Bätzing’s own diocese of Limburg, 9,439 people left the Catholic Church in 2019, 1,459 more than in 2018.
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