German churches haemorrhaging: 430,000 people leave in 2018

German churches lost 430,000 Catholic and Protestant members last year.

The losses were fairly evenly divided, with over 200,000 members departing from each of them.

Every departure hurts,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the German Bishops’ Conference (EKD).

“Since people today, unlike in the past, decide out of freedom whether they want to belong to the church, it is important for us today to make even clearer why the Christian message is such a strong basis for life.”

In Germany, Church membership can be officially renounced by making a declaration in person at a local government agency or district court. Reasons for leaving are not sought.

Unless they renounce their membership with an official declaration, Catholic and Protestant Church members pay up to nine percent of their taxable income as church tax, generating billions of Euros in income for both communities.

The money is automatically deducted, like payroll taxes or social security.

Around 23 million German citizens are members of the Catholic Church and 21.14 million are members of the Protestant churches.

Together, they account for 53.2 percent of the country’s 83 million population.

A recent University of Freiburg study concluded that the number of people belonging to Germany’s two Churches will drop by half by 2060.

The study found the main reasons for declining membership in the two Churches include adults leaving the church, fewer baptisms and an ageing population.

Although no statistics exist regarding the reasons for the departures, surveys conducted by officials in recent months suggest there could be a connection to sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church.


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