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Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ ConferenceScreenshot/YouTube

(LifeSiteNews) –– Setting a record, over 500,000 Germans left the Catholic Church in 2022. 

On Wednesday, June 28 the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) published its yearly statistical report of the Catholic Church in Germany. According to the report, 522,821 Catholics left the Church in 2022, a new record for people leaving in a single year. 

If deaths, admissions, and baptisms are factored in, the Catholic Church has lost over 700,000 members compared to the previous year. At the end of 2022, 20.9 million (24.8 percent of the total population) Catholics lived in Germany, down from 21.6 million (26 percent of the total population) in 2021. 

The number of weddings and weekly Mass attendants increased compared to the previous year, likely due to the heavy COVID restrictions that were still in place in 2021. Marriages as well as Mass attendance still lagged behind the pre-COVID figures. 

The number of priests in Germany went down from 12,280 in 2021 to 11,987 in 2022. Priestly ordinations also decreased by around 27 percent from 62 in 2021 to 45 in 2022. 

The president of DBK, Bishop Georg Bätzing, called the number of Catholics leaving the church “alarming.” 

“We cannot and will not close our eyes to this development. We must continue to act consistently and people must experience that we stand by their side and are there for them,” Bätzing stated. 

“Yes, the high numbers of departures hurt and I know how much volunteers and full-time workers in parishes, institutions, associations, daycare centers, schools, and Caritas organizations are committed to others and how important the Good News of the loving God is to them,” the bishop of Limburg said. “Do not be discouraged. Please continue your commitment and let the people you meet every day experience the sources of your commitment, your joy and your hope. I believe that we have a good message that our society urgently needs and that is sustainable.” 

Bätzing also used the opportunity to once again push the heretical German Synodal Way. 

“We have faced important questions and developments on the Synodal Way. For the most part, we have found answers and want to promote change. I am committed to this and will gladly assume this responsibility for the Diocese of Limburg,” the bishop stated. 

READ: German bishops’ head says same-sex ‘blessings’ will be implemented regardless of Vatican response 

Last year, even before the conclusion of the Synodal Way, Bätzing introduced heterodox “guidelines” on sexual education that forced all parishes in his diocese to accept and promote homosexual behavior and transgenderism. 

Sexual abuse cases and their alleged cover-up by some German bishops have led to an increasingly negative public image of the Catholic Church in Germany over the past years. One prominent example is the progressive bishop and former vice president of the DBK, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, who resigned this year amid accusations of promoting clerics who sexually abused minors. 

The case that has likely been covered the most by the German mainstream press in recent years is the one of the more conservative Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne. The ongoing legal battles around Woelki’s knowledge, or lack thereof, regarding sexually abusive priests in his diocese have certainly damaged the Church’s public image. 

READ: Police raid buildings of Archdiocese of Cologne due to perjury charges against Cdl. Woelki 

The heterodox “reform project” known as the Synodal Way has also drawn significant national and international media attention. During the Synodal Assemblies, more than two-thirds of German bishops voted in favor of heretical documents, calling for changes in the immutable moral teaching of the Church regarding homosexuality, women’s ordinations, and transgender ideology.