Study finds 221,000 Catholics left church in Germany during pandemic

BONN, Germany (CNS) – In the year of coronavirus 2020, fewer Christians left church in Germany than in previous years, two religious organizations reported Wednesday.

About 221,000 Catholics have left the church, while 220,000 have left the Evangelical Church in Germany, a federation of 20 Lutheran, Reformed and Protestant churches and regional denominations united and known by its German acronym EKD, the agency reported. German Catholic Press KNA.

The numbers represent a drop of around 20% from 2019, statistics have shown.

The latest figures put the number of members of the Catholic Church in 2020 at 22.2 million, or 26.7% of the German population. The number of EKD members in 2020 stood at 20.2 million, or 24.3% of the population.

Overall, the share of Christians in the population fell slightly to 54%, but they were still by far the largest religious community in the most populous nation in Europe.

As expected, the pandemic has caused deep cuts in church life and in revenues from church taxes, which are legally imposed on church members who are tax-eligible in Germany. Last year, the number of marriages in the Catholic Church fell to 11,018, from 38,537 in 2019. In the Evangelical Church, baptisms fell by about 50% to 18,000.

EKD tax revenues, meanwhile, fell 5.4 percent to 5.6 billion euros ($ 6.6 billion). The Catholic Church is due to declare its tax revenues later this summer.

COVID-19 has changed a lot in the social and ecclesial life of the country, said Bishop Georg Baetzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops’ conference. At the same time, he pointed out that even during the pandemic, the church had been particularly present in the personal life milestones of many people.

Bishop Baetzing said the number of people leaving the church was painful. Many had apparently lost confidence and, by resigning, wanted to send a signal.

Questions about the reasons were to be asked “openly and honestly”, saying: “This includes first and foremost a thorough reassessment of cases of sexual abuse. Related to this is the issue of power and power sharing in the church.

Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the EKD board, expressed a similar sentiment. “Every leaving church worries me,” he said.

The Evangelical State Churches of Württemberg and Westphalia, members of the EKD, published a study on July 14 examining the motives of people leaving the church. The study stated that the decisive factors were the estrangement from the Christian faith and the church tax, which is commonly referred to as the “membership fee”.

Most of those interviewed did not cite a concrete event for their decision to quit, which was apparently the result of a longer process, according to the report.

Regarding the issue of church taxes, the study revealed different motivations among respondents. Some people just wanted to save money; others said they received nothing of value in return; others said they just couldn’t pay the tax.

The report cited age as a factor.

“To put it plainly, it can be said that people over 40 had a little more pressure to quit because of the behavior of the church, while those under 40 left because they did not. ‘had no relationship with the church and no longer knew what to do with their faith,’ the study said.

In Germany, church tax is a legally imposed levy on church members subject to tax. The money is deducted through the tax office, with the state keeping 3%. Churches mainly use tax revenues to finance their staff in pastoral care as well as in schools and social institutions.

About Norma Wade

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