Large numbers of Germans have renounced their membership of the Catholic Church, according to new statistics.
Figures show that the total leaving the Church in 2014 was 22 per cent higher than in the previous year, rising from 178,805 to 217,716.
This has not only affected the size of the Catholic community but also the amount of income that the Church receives via the country’s church tax.
If a person is baptised as a child in Germany they are considered a member of the Church and liable to pay the church tax, an arrangement that was formalised in the 19th century. It is believed that this tax acts as a factor in motivating many to make a formal renunciation of their faith. Only around a third of German Catholics are thought actually to pay the tax.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, said: “Behind the numbers of church withdrawals are personal life decisions that we in each case profoundly regret but also respect the freedom of choice.”
He added that German Catholics live in “an open and pluralistic society” and that they will continue to proclaim the “joy of the Gospel”.
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