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The Catholic Cathedral of Limburg in Hesse, Germany (Wikimedia/Mylius)

Just one day after the news that hundreds of thousands of Catholics left the Church in Germany in 2023, the Vatican met with representatives of the German Synodal Way to discuss the controversial plans for a permanent synodal council. Source: CNA.

The meeting on Friday resulted in Rome demanding the Germans change the name of the body and agree it cannot have authority over – or be equal to – the bishops conference, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The gathering came at a critical time: According to the official statistics released by the German Bishops’ Conference on Thursday, more than 400,000 people officially left the Church in 2023.

While this represents a decrease from the 522,000 departures in 2022, the trend remains alarming for Church leaders and Catholics alike.

Currently, there are 20,345,872 Catholics registered in Germany. If trends persist, the number could drop below 20 million in 2024.

Moreover, only 6.2 per cent of Catholics regularly attend Mass: This translates to approximately 1.27 million practising Catholics in a country of over 80 million.

A 20-year comparison, released by the bishops conference, paints a bleak picture of the Church’s decline: Since 2003, the number of Catholics has decreased by almost 6 million, while Sunday Mass attendance has plummeted from 15.2 per cent to 6.2 per cent.

A 2021 report by CNA Deutsch noted that 1 in 3 Catholics in Germany were considering leaving the Church. The reasons for leaving vary, with older people citing the Church’s handling of the abuse crisis and younger people pointing to the obligation of paying church tax, according to one earlier study.

The German Bishops’ Conference currently stipulates that leaving the Church results in automatic excommunication, a regulation that has sparked controversy among theologians and canon lawyers.


400,000 Germans quit Catholic Church as talks between Vatican, Synodal Way continue (By AC Wimmer, CNA)