Germany: Continuous Drop in Vocations and Ordinations

February 01, 2023

In 2022-23, there are only 48 new candidates for the priesthood in the seminaries of the 27 dioceses of Germany. This emerges from an interim report by the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), published on January 25, 2023.

The statistics do not specify the distribution by diocese. Nor do they indicate the candidates for the priesthood of the religious communities.

For the first time, less than 50 candidates entered the seminaries. In 2021, there were still 56 new candidates for the priesthood, and in 2020, 54. You have to go back to 2016 to find a three-digit number: 2016, with 103 entrants. In 2007, for the last time there were more than 200 new seminarians: 201.

In other words, in nine years – between 2007 and 2016 – there have been half as many seminarians. And between 2016 and 2022, the number has once again been halved.

The number of diocesan priests ordained each year also shows a clear downward trend. In 2022 – again according to the DBK report – there were 33 new priests for the whole of Germany, not counting priests ordained among the religious.

By comparison, for the year 2022, France saw 122 new priests, including 77 diocesan and 45 from religious congregations.

10 out of 27 dioceses have had no ordinations. This is also a new record: for the first time, a double-digit number of dioceses remain without new priests. With four new priests each, the Archdiocese of Cologne and the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart are in the lead.

Ordinations fell below the bar of 50 diocesan priests in 2021 (48). The previous year, in 2020, there were still 56 new priests. The last time that more than 100 new diocesan priests were able to take office was in 2007 (110). And to find more than 200 new priests (214), you have to go back to 1994.

This reduction is not only observed in the number of priests, but also in the numbers of faithful in general: the Church in Germany lost 359,338 members in 2021, through the “exit” program, from the Church. A figure to which deaths must be added. The total exceeds half-a-million.