Germany’s Catholic Church received a record €6 billion (£5.3 billion/$7.2 billion) in tax money last year, a newspaper investigation has found.
The country’s 27 dioceses also have a fortune of at least €26 billion, including large investments in real estate and equities, making the German Church likely the wealthiest Catholic institution in Europe other than the Vatican.
Handelsblatt reports that despite more than 2.2 million Germans formally deregistering from the Church since 2000, the country’s strong economy has helped boost tax revenue to record levels.
Under the country’s church tax, the government deducts a levy of eight to nine per cent from the income of registered church members and hands it to the country’s various churches, including the Catholic Church.
As well as receiving the large sums from registered Catholics, the German Church has numerous assets and investments. Handelsblatt says that the Church has financial investments of €15 billion, and a fortune of at least €20 billion in fixed assets such as real estate and equities.
The diocese with the highest equity is Paderborn, which has €3.5 billion, followed by Munich with €2.8 billion, and Cologne with €2.6 billion.
The figures come despite the number of Catholics regularly attending Mass falling substantially since the 1960s. In 2015, 2.5 million Catholics went to church on Sunday, compared to 11.5 million 50 years earlier.
In an article for the Catholic Herald last year, Anian Christoph Wimmer, editor of CAN Deutsch, wrote about the state of the German Church.
“The overall number of Catholics stands at 23.8 million – just less than a third of the total population. So it is no surprise that last year, only one in 10 German Catholics worshipped God on Sunday by attending Holy Mass. (And that figure is down one third from 2000.)”