SHAFAQNA- Germany’s Catholic and Protestant Churches recorded a large drop in membership in 2019.
The German bishops’ conference announced that a record 272,771 people left the country’s Catholic Church in 2019. The number represented an increase of more than 56,000 on the 216,000 who left in 2018, and exceeds by a large margin the previous record of 218,000 leaving in 2014.
The figures are part of a growing countrywide exodus from the Christian Churches. The German Protestant Church saw a similar loss of members, with 270,000 people ending their membership in 2019, an increase of 22 per cent on the previous year. The figures in Germany are easy to record, because those leaving officially opt out of the otherwise compulsory church tax.
The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, said the statistics could not be made to look good in any way and that the sharp drop in baptism and wedding ceremonies that was also recorded showed the “erosion of a personal attachment to the Church” particularly clearly, the Tablet reported.
Just over half of all people living in Germany — 43.3 million people, to be exact — are still members of either the Protestant or Catholic church. But that’s a decline of about 5 million compared to 10 years ago. Not since the early 1990s have membership numbers fallen so drastically.
In Germany, anyone leaving the church needs to register the move with the authorities, thus providing official statistics to document the decline. Churches in other European countries are experiencing similar downturns in the number of people who feel an affiliation to them, but this is made apparent only by observing the dwindling church attendances.
Researchers at the University of Freiburg in 2019 predict that the combined membership of the German Catholic and Protestant churches will drop from about 45 million now to 34.8 million by 2035 and 22.7 million by 2060.
The study, which was commissioned by the Catholic German Bishops Conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany, blamed the decline on a number of factors, including more members dying than children being baptized, and adults deciding to leave the church, Associated Press told.
Whatever the case, the latest German figures show clearly that the two main churches no longer appeal to the broad masses. There are several reasons for this. One is that abuse scandals continue to dog both the Catholic and Protestant churches. Another is that the Catholic Church still refuses to treat women equally, justifying this with reference to dogma and tradition, according to DW.