Catholic Church in Austria shrinking dramatically

Catholic Church records record number of departures

The number of people leaving the church in Austria is at a new record high: 90,808 people left the Roman Catholic Church in 2022, church statistics released on Wednesday said.

The number of Catholics shrank from 4.83 million to 4.73 million (down 1.96 per cent) compared to the previous year. In 2022 there were exactly 4,733,174 Catholics, and in 2021 4,827,683 Catholics. Catholics thus still make up slightly more than half of the population.

In 2021, the number of people leaving the church was already high at 72,222, the second-highest figure behind that in 2010, when many people turned their backs on the church after abuse cases came to light. In 2020, the figure was 58,727. "For many people, the current high number of departures is probably due to a distance from the Church, which has become greater due to the pandemic in recent years," Kathpress analysed the current development.

Resentment about Covid measures

According to information from the dioceses, this trend had been intensified last year by the tense overall economic situation, and this despite the fact that the dioceses had accommodated people in collecting church contributions, for example because of the coronavirus pandemic. There was also anger among some members in recent years about the CoV measures set by the church, but they were no stricter than in other areas.

Non-denominationals second largest group

The number of Catholic believers in Austria is continuously shrinking, as is the number of Protestants. This is due to secularisation, which is a general phenomenon especially in Europe. However, there are also religious communities that are constantly growing - mainly due to immigration - above all Muslim and Christian Orthodox. The second largest group in Austria in comparison to the total population is the non-denominational.

Figures on the size of religious communities are increasingly difficult to collect. While until 2001 the confession was still collected in the census, this characteristic was dropped in the subsequent census. In 2021, Statistics Austria conducted a voluntary survey on behalf of the Federal Chancellery on the "religious affiliation of the population in private households".

In addition, the number of resignations as well as admissions and readmissions among the religious communities in Austria subject to church contributions (Roman Catholic, Protestant A. B. and H. B., Old Catholics) are documented.

Not only exits but also entrants

Together with the preliminary Catholic figures, the Catholic Church also published on Wednesday the official church statistics for 2021 with details on church life in Austria. As of 31 December 2022, 4,449 people were re-admitted or newly admitted to the Church. This is slightly less than in 2021 (4,520), but at the same time slightly more than in 2020 (4,068).

630 people also made use of their right of withdrawing from the process of resignation in 2022. This refers to people who had initially declared their resignation, but refrained from this step after contacting church officials and within a three-month period. The number withdrawing from the process of resignation has increased significantly compared to previous years. In 2021, the church recorded 552 revocations, compared to 461 in 2020.

Several factors determine the figures

The figures for 2022 are preliminary. Smaller corrections - especially in the case of new admissions or re-admissions, but also in the case of withdrawing from the process of resignation - are still to be expected, as the data for the last months of the previous year are not yet comprehensively available in all dioceses. Experience shows that the numbers of new church members (admissions and re-admissions) and withdrawing from the process of resignation will still increase slightly.



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