The Catholic Church in Germany

Just under 60 percent of the roughly 82 million Germans were Christians in 2016. 23.6 million belong to the Catholic Church; 21,9 million people belong to the Protestant Church in Germany. Added to this are members of Protestant Free Churches (roughly 292,000), Orthodox Churches (about 2 million) and other Christian Churches (more than 559,000 - Evangelical Church in Germany: survey 2016 and Orthodox Bishops' Conference of Germany).

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 between 4,5 and 4,7 million - Federal Office for Migration and Refugees: survey result 31.12.2015) amd the members of the Jewish communities (roughly 99,000 - Central Welfare Agency of the Jews in Germany: survey 2016).


The Catholics

There are 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide. At 23.6 million, their number had decreased in Germany in 2016 to roughly 28,5 percent of the German population. 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: 51 percent in Bavaria, 60 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.

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 2016 162,093 people left the Catholic Church in Germany (2015: 181,925).

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