An altar server carries a crucifix during Mass at a church in Rheinbach, Germany, Feb. 6, 2021.

BONN, Germany (CNS) — In the coronavirus year 2020, fewer Christians left the church in Germany than in previous years, two church organizations reported on Wednesday.

About 221,000 Catholics quit the church, while 220,000 left the Evangelical Church in Germany, a federation of 20 Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant regional churches and denominations and known by its German acronym EKD, reported the German Catholic news Agency KNA.

The numbers represent a decline of about 20% from 2019, statistics showed.

The latest figures put the Catholic Church’s membership in 2020 at 22.2 million, accounting for 26.7% of Germany’s population. The EKD membership in 2020 stood at 20.2 million, or 24.3% of the population.

Overall, the share of Christians in the population slipped slightly to 54%, but they still comprised by far the single largest religious community in Europe’s most populous nation.

Overall, the share of Christians in the population slipped slightly to 54%, but they still comprised by far the single largest religious community in Europe’s most populous nation.

As expected, the pandemic caused deep cuts in church life and in the income from church taxes, which are legally imposed on tax-eligible church members in Germany. The number of weddings in the Catholic Church last year fell to 11,018, from 38,537 in 2019. In the Evangelical Church, christenings fell by about 50% to 18,000.

The EKD’s tax revenues meanwhile fell by 5.4% to 5.6 billion euros (US$6.6 billion). The Catholic Church is to report its tax income figures later this summer.

COVID-19 has changed a great deal in the country’s social and church life, Bishop Georg Baetzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, said. At the same time, he stressed that even during the pandemic, the church had been a presence particularly in the milestones of many people’s personal lives.

Bishop Baetzing said the number of people quitting the church was painful. Many had apparently lost trust and by quitting wanted to send a signal.

The questions about the reasons needed to be “openly and honestly” asked, saying, “This includes first and foremost a thorough reappraisal of sexual abuse cases. Linked to this is the issue of power and power-sharing in the church.”

Many had apparently lost trust and by quitting wanted to send a signal.

Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, EKD council chairman, expressed a similar sentiment. “Each church-leaving worries me,” he said.

The evangelical state churches in Wurttemberg and Westphalia, members of the EKD, released a study July 14 examining the motives of people quitting the church. The study said that decisive factors were a distancing from Christian faith and the church tax, which is commonly called a “membership fee.”

Most people questioned did not cite a concrete event for their move to quit, which apparently was the result of a longer process, the report said.

Regarding the issue of church taxes, the study revealed differing motives among respondents. Some people simply wanted to save money; others said they missed getting anything of value in return; others said they simply could not afford the tax.

The report cited age as a factor.

“Putting it pointedly, it can be said that persons over 40 years were somewhat more strongly moved to quit due to the behavior of the church, while those under 40 years left because they had no relationship with the church and no longer knew what to do with their faith,” the study said.

In Germany, the church tax is a legally imposed levy on tax-liable church members. The money is deducted via the tax office, with the state keeping 3% for itself. The churches above all use tax income to finance their personnel in pastoral ministry as well as in schools and social institutions.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

The invasion of public land by big landowners and illegal miners at the expense of Indigenous groups and small growers has led to record numbers of violent conflicts in Brazil’s rural and forest areas.
Eduardo Campos LimaAugust 02, 2021
Many are no doubt pleased with revelations that expose the hypocrisy of a Catholic priest—again. But what does this incident mean for the rest of us?
Firmin DeBrabanderAugust 02, 2021
“The stakes of getting it wrong are too high.” Immigrant advocates are voicing disappointment with recent decisions from Biden administration.
These statistics should be enough to make us want to undergo a metanoia, a change of mind and heart, and make us ask why our church is not only not a welcoming place to L.G.B.T.Q. people, but actively unwelcoming.
James Martin, S.J.August 02, 2021