Catholicism in Germany has been in decline over the past few years, and according to the latest figures released by the German Bishops' Conference, the future is looking bleak if the trend continues.
Last year, almost 182,000 people departed from the faith. In a population of about 80 million Germans, Catholics amount to about 23.7 million which is nearly one-third of the total population.
Experts believe one of the major reasons for the departure from Church has been the 'Church Tax' levied on Church members in Germany. As per German law, anyone baptized as a child becomes a member of the church, and even if they do not attend church services are required to pay the tax. This tax rule has been in effect for few years, but since the inclusion of the tax on gains from capital income - that is, gains from selling any asset - people have been trying to find a way out.
However, the only way to avoid the tax is to renounce membership of the church, which means giving up most of the services attached to it. In 2015, a little over 167,000 babies were baptized compared to 260,000 in the year 1995. Catholic marriages took a hit too as only 44,298 couples tied the knot in Church in 2015, which was about half the number compared to the previous year.
The condition among the clergy was not encouraging either as about 54% went to confession only once a year or less. About 91% of the total number of Pastoral assistants noted that they received Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year or less.
After the release of the data, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising emphasised that the church remains a "strong force, whose message is heard and accepted," but is in need of a "sophisticated pastoral practice" that does justice to the "diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith."
Last year at the German bishops' ad limina meeting in the Vatican, Pope Francis said: "Given the facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany."
However, he went on to add that the church first needed to overcome any "paralysing resignation" and be inspired by the life and faith of the first Christians in the early churches.