Germany: Catholic Church Laments Continued Decline in Number of Faithful

Source: FSSPX News

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops Conference

On September 21 in Bonn, the German Bishops Conference announced that 121,155 Catholics left the Church in 2008.

This rise in the number of people leaving the Church follows the trend of recent years: 84,389 in 2006 and then 93,667 in 2007.

The statistics show a simultaneous fall in the number of new entries into the Church and of persons returning to the Church. In 2008 returns to the Church totaled 9,546, compared with 10,207 in 2007 and 10,823 in 2006. At the same time, the number of new entries fell to 4,388 in 2008 compared with 4,881 in the previous year.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops Conference and the archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, described the statistics as “distressing”. He declared himself unable to explain the reasons for them. This phenomenon needs to be analyzed, he said.

These figures obviously have an effect on the taxes collected by the Church in Germany. The prelate anticipated a 10% fall in revenue.

Thus, the Catholic Church had 25.18 million faithful in 2008, that is, 280,000 fewer members than in the previous year. In the same period, the number of parishes and chaplaincies fell from 12,265 to 12,080. Last year, 48,841 couples were married in the Church, which is 552 fewer than in 2007. The number of religious funerals rose by 5,300 to attain 256,735.

The Society of St. Pius X gave an explanation for the increase in the number of people leaving the Church in Germany. Their district superior, Fr. Franz Schmidberger, condemned “the terrible banality of the faith, the low profile of the Church in Germany, the aggressive advance of secularism and the lack of missionary zeal in large parts of the hierarchy”. In fact, “Catholics with strong faith do not turn their back on the Church during periods of economic and financial crisis,” he said in a message issued on September 24. But, “no bishop in Germany has come up with a program for winning back those who no longer practice or have left the Church, nor organized any diocesan catechesis in accordance with the true Faith. Duplicity and cowardice in place of a new evangelization are the order of the day. Thus the process of erosion will continue,” explained Fr. Schmidberger.

Furthermore, during their autumn meeting at Fulda, the German Bishops Conference spent an entire day looking into its commitment to Islam.

On September 25 Archbishop Zollitsch said that he was in favor of training German-speaking Islamic teachers for work in the religious domain. This would constitute an important phase with regard to the integration of Muslims and interreligious harmony in the Federal Republic, said the President of the Bishops Conference. Such an initiative would also help to combat the use of religion for political or economic interests, he added, while regretting that at an international level, there continued to be painful barriers to dialogue. For it is not rare to see this exchange refused to Christians, he admitted, mentioning Turkey and some African countries.

In spite of everything the German prelate felt that the Church must make sure that there were sufficient competent speakers available in the domain of interreligious dialogue.