Church in Germany receives highest ever church tax income despite record exodus

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The Church in Germany received more money in church tax than ever before in 2019 despite losing a record number of members.

According to official figures released Monday, the German Church received 6.76 billion euros ($7.75 billion) in 2019. 

This represents a increase of more than 100 million euros ($115 million)  compared to 2018, when the Church gained 6.64 billion euros from the tax. The rise is believed to be due to the growth of Germany's economy in 2019.

If an individual is registered as a Catholic in Germany, 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. 

The record haul from church tax in 2019 comes a month after Church authorities announced that a record number of Catholics formally left the Church in Germany in 2019. 

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.

CNA Deutsch, CNA's German language news partner, noted that the German bishops' conference document containing the new figures made no comment on the record level of church tax. 

Instead, it focused on the controversial "Synodal Way," a process bringing together lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women. The text also highlighted areas such as "Creation and Environment" and an "Inclusive Church."

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a "growing erosion and deterioration of faith."

"Every time an ecclesial community has tried to get out of its problems alone, relying solely on its own strengths, methods and intelligence, it has ended up multiplying and nurturing the evils it wanted to overcome," he wrote.

In an address to the German bishops in 2015, he said that "one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany," urging them to "overcome resignation which paralyzes."

The new church tax figures were published on the same day as a Vatican instruction calling for changes to parish life to be focused on evangelization. 

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