Catholic faith shows steep decline in Germany, with over 180,000 leaving church in 2015

ReutersVisitors walk through Limburg Cathedral in Germany.

The numbers are alarming, but the bishops' conference in Germany insists that the Catholic Church in the most populous member of the European Union remains "a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted."

In their report issued last Friday, the bishops admitted that a total of 181,925 German Catholics left the church in 2015, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Nevertheless, Catholicism remains as the largest single religious group in Germany, with more than 23.7 million members comprising 29 percent of the population, the report states.

But for how long those figures will remain is anybody's guess. What is clear is that based on official numbers, average church attendance in Germany is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015.

The number of people leaving the Church also increased within the same period, peaking in recent years at more than 200,000 annually.

The German bishops' conference did point out that 2,685 people became Catholic in 2015 while 6,474 reverted to Catholicism.

The bishops also emphasised that baptisms and marriages showed a slight increase as compared to the year before. However, the official report shows a steep downward trend for the long-term figures. In 1995, 260,000 babies were baptised in Germany. In 2015, just over 167,000 were baptised, the official figures show.

The situation is even worse for marriages. In 1995, 86,456 Catholic couples were married in Church. Last year, the number was down by almost half: In a nation of 80 million people, only 44,298 couples were married in Church in 2015..

But despite these alarming numbers, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, the head of the bishops' conference, issued an upbeat appraisal of the situation, saying, "The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted."

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