polls in two European countries now show that the Church is growing as
a powerful social institution. In France, numbers of practicing
Catholics remain strong while the German Church is benefiting from the
election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope last year.
In France the poll showed that the Catholic Church remains by far the most important institution. Figures coming from the French Bishops Conference, a recent poll from the CSA institute and the daily LeMonde newspaper, show that 62 % of the population considers itself Catholic, 12 % say they are somewhat practicing and 35% are non-practicing.
Half of French children are currently baptized, and about 18,826 adults and
children over 7 years old were baptized in 2001.
France has just over 100 bishops and 24 000 priests currently exercise their pastoral activity there.
In 2002, there were 132 newly ordained priests, while about 9,542 men and 46,007 women belong to religious congregations. More than 6,000 French are in mission out of France (Africa, Latin America, Asia) and about 1000 of them are priests.
The strength of the Catholic Church largely lies in the 8,719 schools belonging to the organizations of catholic education in the country. More than 35,000 students are currently enrolled in the system. There are also many important catholic associations, such as Catholic Charities which are linked with the Church.
Likewise, the Catholic Church in Germany is benefiting from a “Benedict XVI effect.” Indeed many Germans are witnessing a mix of sympathy and curiosity for this theologian-Pope.
Experts say that the election of the Bavarian Pope, the shy and discret Joseph Ratzinger came at the perfect time for the German Church.
Accordingto a recent poll from the Forsa Institute for the Neue Bild Post newspaper, 59% of Catholics and 54% of people with no religious confessions say the election of Joseph Ratzinger benefited the German Church.
37% view him as a prudent moderated reformer while the fact that he is a theologian, mastering the subtleties of modern German thought is certainly thought to be an advantage in a country very suspicious of Popes in general. It is often known as the land of Luther and the reformation.
Pope Benedict has shown his ability for dialogue and openness by receiving the contested theologian Hans Kung as well as the representatives of the most traditional movements of the Church.