Austria: Number of Catholics Continues to Decline

January 17, 2023
View of Salzburg with the cathedral

The number of Catholics in Austria fell again last year. This is revealed by the statistics published on Wednesday by the Austrian dioceses. According to these figures, Austria had 4.73 million Catholics as of December 31, 2022. In 2021, there were 4.83 million Catholics.

One of the reasons for this deficit is the high number of “leaves from the Church”: according to data from the Austrian Bishops' Conference, 72,222 people left the Catholic Church in 2021, while in 2020 this figure was of 58,727. For 2022, the figure is already known: there were 90,808 departures from the Church, as compared with the figure for 2010 when the Church recorded the loss of 85,960 faithful.

The bishops explain the reasons for these important exits, first, because of the distancing produced by the health crisis, distancing which has become definitive for a certain number. Second, by the tense overall economic situation – in other words, in order to no longer pay the obligatory ecclesiastical contribution, which represents approximately 1% of a person’s income.

The second reason for this decrease is the difference between the numbers of deaths and baptisms, a difference in favor of deaths.

Revenue Increase

Despite the decrease in the faithful, the Austrian dioceses are recording slight increases in revenue for 2021. Most of it comes from ecclesiastical contributions. In 2021, they amounted to almost 499 million euros (75%), in 2020, ecclesiastical contributions amounted to almost 484 million euros.

State benefits as compensation for damage caused by Nazism represent approximately 59.5 million euros and therefore 8.9% of revenue. The remaining 106.3 million euros, or 16% of revenue, comes from asset management, rentals, services, subsidies, and other products.

Priests, Deacons, and Religious

The number of active priests in Austria in 2021 amounts to 3,425, a slight decrease compared to 2020 (3,548). The number of permanent deacons has decreased slightly. Statistics for 2021 show 742, compared to 752 in 2020.

The number of religious brothers is steadily decreasing (2021: 1,610; 2020: 1,708; 2019: 1,753; 2018: 1,814; 2017: 1,920). As for the number of religious sisters, it has been decreasing slightly but steadily for years (2020: 3,088; 2019: 3,359; 2018: 3,453; 2017: 3,600).