Catholic Church in Germany continues to lose members; resignations at record high

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Germany Church
People walk outside the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Church of Our Lady in Trier, Germany, May 15, 2020. The Catholic Church in Germany has continued to lose members with resignations reaching record high in 2022. (OSV News photo photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA)

BONN, Germany (OSV News) — The Catholic Church in Germany, shaken by the abuse scandal, is continuing to shrink, with more than half a million people officially quitting the church in 2022. Most of the resignations occurred in the Archdiocese of Cologne.

The wave of resignations from the Catholic Church in Germany has reached a record high, according to figures published by the German bishops’ conference in Bonn on June 28.

Exploring the numbers

Membership in the Catholic Church now stands at 20.9 million in Germany, less than a quarter of the population. This has reinforced the trend of more than half of the German population no longer belonging to a church.

The 522,652 official departures, along with 240,133 deaths, stand in contrast to about 155,000 Catholic baptisms performed last year. In addition, a total of 1,445 people joined the Catholic Church and 3,749 were readmitted to it.

The Protestant Church in Germany also is shrinking. According to data published in March, the number of members fell to 19.15 million.

In Germany, church membership is registered both in the local Catholic or Protestant parish and with the civil authorities. All registered church members pay a church tax, which is deducted from their income every month by the local tax office. So those who want to leave the church in Germany must officially file the request with a civil entity. Then, the report is turned in to their local parish.

Most resignations (51,345) were in the Archdiocese of Cologne. Nevertheless, with over 1.7 million Catholics this archdiocese remains the diocese with the most members.

‘Resolute action’ needed

The president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, called the figures alarming.

“We must continue to take resolute action and the people must see that we stand by their side and are there for them,” he said. He warned against feelings of discouragement in view of the large number of departures.

KNA is a Catholic news agency based in Bonn, Germany.

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