The fact that more and more Catholics are leaving the crisis-ridden church no longer surprises even the German bishops. However, the numbers that have now been published have reached an unprecedented level.

In the past year, more people have left the Catholic Church than ever before. 359,338 Catholics turned their backs on her in 2021 alone, as the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) announced on Monday in Bonn.

“For us, this is the highest number so far,” said DBK spokesman Matthias Kopp.

The chairman of the bishops’ conference, Georg Bätzing, was “deeply shocked by the extremely high number of people leaving the church”. It is evidence of a “profound crisis in which we as the Catholic Church in Germany are,” he said. “There’s nothing nice about it.”

In 2020, with 221,390 people, significantly fewer Catholics had left the church, in 2019 – the year before Corona – the number was 272,771 according to DBK information.

The Catholic Church still had 21,645,875 members – that is 26 percent of the total population. And only a tiny fraction of them go to church on Sunday: Only 4.3 percent of Catholics regularly attended a service in 2021. The year before it was 5.9 percent.

Also fewer priests

The number of Catholic priests also fell significantly by more than 2,000: from 12,565 in 2020 to 10,313 last year. In 2021 there were still 9790 parishes in Germany – 68 fewer than the year before.

“In addition to these numbers, we have to add the realization that not only are people leaving who have had little or no contact with their parish for a long time, but there is increasing feedback that people are taking this step who have previously been in the parish Parishes were very committed, »said Bätzing. “There are no longer things we take for granted as the Catholic Church. We have to explain ourselves anew, explain what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

However, a short-term trend reversal is more than unlikely. The figures from 2021 that have now been presented do not even reflect the shock that the Catholic Church in Germany experienced after the Munich abuse report in January of this year. The effects of the study will only be reflected in the church statistics, which will be published next year.

A look at traditionally Catholic Bavaria shows that another negative record is imminent for the current year: “We have had more church exits than ever before,” said the spokesman for the Munich district administration department, Johannes Mayer, at the request of the German Press Agency. Between January 1 and June 22 of this year, 14,035 people left the church in Munich alone – across all denominations. In the same period of 2021 there were 10,472 and in 2019 with 7556 significantly fewer.

Unlike in previous years, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) presented the number of people leaving the church earlier than the DBK in March and reported around 280,000 people leaving the church.