By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 July, 2015
New figures on the Catholic Church in Germany show that last year over 200,000 members of the faithful opted to depart its ranks.
According to the latest statistics released by the German bishops’ conference, while over 200,000 people left the Church, only 2,809 joined it and another 6,314 were readmitted.
In 2013, 178,805 Catholics formally dropped off parish rolls but in 2014 the figure rose by 22% to 217,716.
Germany requires those who are officially enrolled in a congregation to pay a church tax.
This makes it possible for the Church to calculate how many people are paying the tax and how many are opting out of the tax.
Figures show that the number of Catholics opting out of the tax has spiked in recent years. Church attendance is believed to be currently roughly 12 percent.
Commenting on the latest figures, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, said the departures from the Church reflect “personal life decisions that in every case we profoundly regret, but we also respect the freedom of choice.”
However, despite the drop in membership, the Church in Germany, thanks to the Church tax, remains wealthy.
The Church is Germany’s second-largest employer, with employees in education, childcare centres, retirement homes, hospitals and other charitable organisations.