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German Catholic Church lost over 220,000 faithful in 2020

July 14, 2021

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CWN Editor's Note: 221,390 German Catholics formally left the faith in 2020, continuing a dramatic exodus that has seen the German Catholic population shrink by over 700,000 in the past three years.

The German government collects the “church tax” from citizens who are enrolled in a Catholic parish. To escape that tax, many Germans choose to remove their names from the parish rosters. The German bishops have announced that only enrolled parishioners—that is, those paying the tax—should receive the sacraments.

The statistics for 2020 show a steep decline in the number of baptisms (down 35% from 2019), confirmations (down 41%), and Catholic weddings (down nearly 75%).

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, acknowledged the decline. “We take his very seriously,” he said. But he attributed the exodus primarily to the sex-abuse scandal, and said that the “Synodal Path” undertaken by the German hierarchy “can make its contribution to building new trust.”

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