A large number of Germans have renounced their membership of the Catholic Church, according to new statistics.
Figures show that the numbers leaving the Church in 2014 was 22 per cent higher than in the previous year, going from 178,805 to 217,716.
Not only has this news affected the size of the Catholic community but also the amount of income that the Church receives via the 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 the existence of this tax acts as a factor in motivating many to make a formal renunciation of their faith. It is also thought that only around a third of German Catholics actually pay the tax.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the 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”.
Despite more than 820,000 people leaving the faith over the last five years, Germany’s Bishops’ Conference recorded almost 24 million Catholics in the country, making up nearly 30 per cent of its population.
Nevertheless, the exodus of 2014 was particularly large with last year’s figures representing an increase of more than 50 per cent of the number of Germans who left the Church in comparison to 1990.