Netherlands: Sanitary Measures Have Reduced Practitioners by a Third

March 23, 2023
St. Francis Xavier Church in Amsterdam

The Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad conducted a survey to measure the impact of the recent Covid-19 pandemic on the level of religious practice among Catholics in the Netherlands as well as the number of volunteers serving in the Church in the European country.

The drop in church attendance from pre-pandemic levels predicted by many is confirmed. Between 2019 and 2022, the drop in Sunday attendance reached 36%.

“If you do the math, you get an average drop of around 14% per year, whereas in the years before the pandemic the drop was around 6%,” said Joris Kregting, of the institute. Kaski research center at the Katholiek Nieuwsblad.

But there is another, less expected effect: the number of volunteers has also dropped drastically. In the first year of Covid, this number fell by 10%, whereas in previous years the decline was 3-4% per year.

“For parishioners, the disruption caused by Covid may be temporary; for volunteers, the decline is more likely to be permanent,” Mr. Kregting said. This comes at a time when parishes across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to find new volunteers, he added.

Assessment of Effects

The Katholiek Nieuwsblad also conducted an online survey of parishioners in the Netherlands about their experience of the effects of the pandemic.

The results of the survey show a marked contrast in the personal evaluation of the effects of Covid: many effects considered positive, such as the Mass being broadcast online, the end of the handshake during the exchange of peace, decreased communion in the mouth (sic), etc., are also high on the list of perceived negative effects.

This could be a sign of a polarization that also occurred within the Catholic community in the Netherlands, and which is also noticeable in the responses of many interviewees.

“This madness has only created an even greater division between people,” replied one survey participant. Another complained about “inhumane and unchristian” reactions to believers who did not want to be vaccinated.

However, both parishioners and members of the Church are also seeing many positive effects of the pandemic, especially from a social perspective. This positive social effect is frequently mentioned in the survey of parishioners.

The deepening of faith and attention to the missionary aspect of church life are also often mentioned as positive effects.

Several parishioners speak of a greater emphasis on the essentials of the faith during the liturgy and an increase in personal devotion and participation in the sacraments. “The first time I found myself with people in the same church, praying aloud the Our Father, the Gloria, and the Creed, it marked me deeply,” writes one of them.