The number of people leaving the church in Germany remained high in 2023. However, the spectacular negative record among Catholics in 2022 will probably not be exceeded, as a survey by the DPA news agency among cities and municipalities suggests. As a result, tens of thousands of people turned their backs on the church in the year that is now coming to an end.
In Berlin the number fell slightly compared to the same period last year, but remained at a high level in 2023. By the end of September, 16,708 people had left the church, a spokeswoman for Berlin's civil courts said. In the same period last year there were 18,018 people leaving the church, around 1,300 more. According to statistics, 9,699 Protestant and 6,876 Catholic Christians left their parish.
In Frankfurt am Main, 7,201 people left the church, around 2,000 fewer than in 2022 (9,155).
In the Bavarian capital Munich, 19,081 people left religious communities by December 15 of this year, as the city's statistical office announced upon request. In 2022 there were significantly more at just over 26,000 in the same period.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, a sample survey at some local courts revealed a continued high number of resignations. In the state capital Düsseldorf, 5,172 Catholics and 3,469 Protestants left the church this year by December 19th; in 2022 as a whole, there were 6,211 Catholics and 3,338 Protestants. In Cologne, the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of over one million, there were 14,430 people leaving the church in the period from January to November inclusive in 2023, and 20,331 in 2022 as a whole.
Even in Freiburg - a region particularly heavily influenced by the affair surrounding former Archbishop Robert Zollitsch - the number of resignations fell. By mid-December 2022 there were 3,698 people, and a year later 3,149 people. In April, an expert report on sexual abuse by clergy accused Zollitsch of not reporting cases to Rome earlier.
According to the Freiburg theologian and canon lawyer Georg Bier, the decline at a still high level could have something to do with the Catholic Church's already heavy losses in recent years. “Anyone who leaves the church out of disappointment with current developments had enough reason to do so in the past and has long since taken this step,” he told the DPA. Now the proportion of those leaving the church who have had a biographical change, such as moving out of their parents' house or entering professional life, is increasing again.
In 2022, the Catholic German Bishops' Conference (DBK) reported a spectacular negative record: 522,821 Catholics turned their backs on their church. Protestants reported a total of 380,000 people leaving the church nationwide in 2022.