Munich, Germany, Jul 16, 2016 / 06:08 am
Figures released Friday by the German bishops' conference draw a bleak picture of the ongoing decline of Catholicism in Germany.
However, the head of the conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, described the Church July 15 as a continuing "strong force, whose message is heard and accepted".
With more than 23.7 million members in Germany, Catholicism is the largest single religious group in country, comprising 29 percent of the population. Yet people are leaving the Church in droves: in 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed.
By comparison, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to Catholicism.
Whilst the German bishops' conference emphasised that baptisms and marriages showed a slight increase as compared to the year before, the actual long-term figures describe a steep downward trend.
When compared to the official statistics of twenty years ago, the number of baptisms has declined by more than a third, from almost 260,000 babies baptized in 1995 to just over 167,000 in 2015. The situation is even worse for marriages. Twenty-one years ago, 86,456 couples tied the knot in Church. Last year, the number was down by almost half: In a nation of 80 million people, only 44,298 couples were married in the Church last year.
Further official numbers confirm this precipitous decline: average church attendance is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015.
The number of people departing the Church has increased within the same timeframe, having peaked in recent years at more than 200,000 annually.
No numbers are provided by the German episcopate about how many Catholics went to confession last year. However, a recent academic study of the priesthood in Germany showed that even amongst the clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only "once a year or less". Amongst pastoral assistants, a staggering 91 percent responded that they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year or less.