“A profound crisis”: Catholic Church in Germany sees record membership loss

For the first time, less than half of Germans belong to one of the two mainstream churches.

Evangelical Focus

BERLIN · 30 JUNE 2022 · 12:45 CET

A church cross in Berlin, Germany. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@annatherphoto">Anna Schroeder</a>, Unsplash, CC0.,
A church cross in Berlin, Germany. / Photo: Anna Schroeder, Unsplash, CC0.

359,338 left the German Roman Catholic Church in 2021, a record number in the country which reflects “a profound crisis”, the head of the Bishops Conference admitted.

Georg Bätzing said in a press conference he was “deeply shocked by the extremely high number of people leaving the church”. These latest figures are worse than those of previous years: 221,390 left the Church in 2020 and 272,771 in 2019.

Over one million have left the Roman Catholic Church since 2018. The number of those who officially belong to the institution is 21,645,000 but most do not attend church services regularly.

One of the reasons given by the Bishops Conference to explain the record number of kirchenaustritte is the effect of the investigations into sexual abuse scandals inside the Church.

But the Roman Church in Germany is also seeing strong LGBT outings among priests and other church workers, as well as heated theological debates around the celibacy of priests and the role of women in church leadership.  


Less than 50% are Catholics or mainline Protestants

Less than half of Germans are now members of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Evangelical Protestant Church (EKD), which announced in March it lost 2.5% of its membership in 2021, falling below the barrier of 20 million members.

In 2007, Catholics and mainline Protestant still accounted for 61.5% of the German population, according to news website Pro Medienmagazin.  

Nevertheless, the overall number of Christians in Germany is higher when members of free evangelical churches (whose church attendance is much higher) and other Christian confessions are counted.

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