The Catholic Church in Germany

Roughly two-thirds of the more than 81 million Germans were Christians in 2012. 24.3 million belong to the Catholic Church; 23.6 million people belong to the Protestant Church in Germany. Added to this are members of Protestant Free Churches (roughly 330,000), Orthodox Churches (1.2 million) and other Christian Churches (29,000 - Evangelical Church in Germany: survey 2011). The share of Christians in the total population is hence 61,5 percent.

Another third of Germans are either non-denominational or belong to another religion. These include, for instance, members of the two other monotheistic religions, the Muslims (estimated at 4 million - Federal Office for Migration and Refugees: survey 2009) amd the members of the Jewish communities (roughly 100,000 - Central Welfare Agency of the Jews in Germany: survey 2010).

The Catholics

There are more than 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. At 24.3 million, their number had decreased in Germany in 2012 to just under one-third of the German population (30.3 percent). They accounted for 42.7 percent prior to reunification in 1990; the share made up by non-denominationals markedly increased after reunification. Their are major regional differences here which are caused, firstly, by Protestants being dominant in the Northern areas, as well as by the political system in Eastern Germany prior to 1990.

Between three and nine percent of the population in the Eastern Federal Länder are Catholic, depending on the region, and in the Northern Federal Länder between six percent (Schleswig-Holstein) and 17 percent (Lower Saxony). The share of Catholics is much larger in the Southern Federal Länder: 55 percent in Bavaria, 64 percent in the Saarland.

This fall in the number of German Catholics is due, firstly, to the demographic developments in society as a whole – more Catholics are buried per year than are received through baptism, and secondly, the share is reduced by reunications of membership.

Ties to the Church vary considerably among German Catholics. According to an Allensbach survey from 2009, 17 percent refer to themselves as "believing, committed to the church", 37 percent as "critical, with ties to the church". Almost 50 percent refer to themselves as distanced, unsure or not religious.

At the beginning of the 21st century the Church is challenged by manifold, immense social changes. Today it cannot be taken for granted that people belong to a church and that they practice their faith. This is shown in the many cases of people leaving the church. In 2012 118.335 people left the Catholic Church in Germany (minus 6,5 percent compared to the previous year).


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