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Bishop Bätzing, president of the German Bishops Conference YouTube screenshot

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(LifeSiteNews) – German Catholics are leaving the Church in record numbers.

The German Bishops Conference published the statistics report for 2021 on Monday, June 27, 2022. According to the report, 359,388 people left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2021, compared to 221,390 in 2020. That is an increase of around 62% from the previous year and the highest number ever recorded in a single year.

The number of sacraments administered to the faithful went up in 2021 compared to the year before, due to fewer Covid-related restrictions. However, fewer sacraments were administered in 2021 than in the pre-Covid year 2019.

The Catholic Church in Germany had around 21.6 million members in 2021, which amounts to about 26% of Germany’s population. The number of priests went down from 12,565 in 2020 to only 10,313 in 2021. There were only 62 ordinations to the priesthood in 2021.

In 2021, Germany had a population estimated at 89.3 million people in total.

The president of the German Bishops Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said he was “deeply shaken” by the figures. The numbers attest to the profound crisis in which the Catholic Church in Germany finds itself. Bätzing added that it is not only people who have had little or even no contact with their parish for a long period who are leaving: there is more and more feedback that people who were previously very involved in their parishes are also leaving the Church.

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Bishop Bätzing implied that the ecclesial scandals were an important factor in the large number of people leaving the Church. He defended the Synodal Way by saying that “with the Synodal Way as an impulse for internal reform and renewal, important steps in the right direction” were taken. According to Bätzing, this renewal triggered by the German reform “obviously did not reach the faithful yet.”

According to the report, the number of German Sunday Mass adherents went down as well. In 2021, 4.3% of Catholics attended Mass on Sundays; this was down from 5.9% in 2020. In 2019, 9.1% of Catholics still attended Mass on Sunday.

Bishop Bätzing noted that millions could be reached through online and radio church services. He believes the idea that “churches will become fuller again or that the number of believers will increase again” has to be abandoned.

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While criticism of the Synodal Way by conservative and traditional Catholic media outlets in Germany regarding the statistics report was to be expected, even a secular mainstream media outlet offered a similar. An opinion piece in the German newspaper Die Welt called into question the liberal reform process in the Catholic Church as the universal remedy for all the Church’s problems and suggested that hard questions like that are not reflected on by the German Episcopate.