Switzerland: A constant increase in the numbers of the a-confessional

Source: FSSPX News

The Institute of Pastoral Sociology in Saint-Gall (IPS) published on December 3, 2014, Switzerland’s religious and ecclesial statistics. These show that contrary to what the Swiss-German newspaper Blick had declared in its October 20, 2013 edition, only six months after the election of the new pope, there has been no “Francis effect”. In fact, there is no positive tendency to mention, pointed out the Institute, since the number of faithful to leave the Church in 2013 is higher in Switzerland than it was in 2012, while the number of faithful to join the Church has been stable for years at a very low level.

For those who left the Church, the Institute observed two different tendencies in 2013: a slight increase in the large and generally urban cantons, and a stability or decrease in the rural cantons. The traditionally Catholic cantons of central Switzerland, as well as those of Appenzell Rhodes-Interior, Valais and Tessin (71%) are still today strongly marked by Catholicism. The canton of Berne is the last to have preserved its Protestant majority (56%). In 2012, the proportion of protestants in a traditionally Calvinist canton such as Geneva was only 11%, while the percentages of Catholics and of non-practicing citizens increased. The canton of Bale-City has the highest a-confessional percentage: 44%. The tendency towards an increase in the numbers of faithful leaving the Church can be observed not only in Switzerland, but also in the neighboring countries, Germany and Austria.

The constant increase in the number a-confessional persons, points out the Institute, represents the most important change in the religious outlay in Switzerland. Their number almost doubled between 2000 (11.4%) and 2012 (21.4%). Three factors indicate that the tendency to abandon religious confession will continue to gain ground: the increase in the number of faithful to leave the Church, the decrease in the number of child baptisms and the increase in the number of a-religious European immigrants.

The report on the religious outlay in Switzerland, published in November 2013 by the IPS noted that while two thirds of the Swiss still declare themselves protestant or catholic, the ‘a-confessional’ nonetheless represent more than a fifth of the population, concentrated in the large urban centers, with an increase of people who are a-confessional from their earliest years. “The Catholic Church in Switzerland is going through a phase of profound change, going from a great Church that has exercised a leading influence in society for centuries to a minor institution”, stated the press release. While the principal tendencies already identified continue, the statistics reveal surprising elements, such as the fact that the number of Catholics and Protestants to get married in the Church is decreasing. The statistics on the Church also show that a limit of growth has been reached for lay theologians and deacons, who take on more and more pastoral tasks to make up for the lack of priests. The first lay theologians have retired in the meantime, and who knows if the theological succession will be enough to replace them. Lay collaborators who have followed ecclesial formations and faithful committed as volunteers in their parishes and animating Church life should thus become more and more important in the future.

In conclusion, a growing increase in the number of faithful to leave the Church can be observed over the past five years. The two great national Churches will continue to lose members to this clearly stable tendency unless the erosion is made up for by immigration, states the 2014 report.

(sources: apic/ spi stgallen – DICI no.308 dated January 16, 2015)

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