Number of people leaving Catholic Church in Austria fell in 2020

The high altar of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Credit: Bwag via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

CNA Staff, Jan 14, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Fewer people left the Catholic Church in Austria in 2020 than in the previous year, according to official figures released on Wednesday.

New statistics, published on Jan. 13, showed that 58,535 people formally left the Church in 2020, compared to 67,794 in 2019 — a drop of 13.7%.

All Austrian dioceses recorded a decline in the number of people leaving, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, defying expectations in a year dominated by the coronavirus crisis.

Overall, the number of Catholics in Austria fell by around 1.5%, from 4.98 million in 2019 to 4.91 million in 2020.

Church authorities said that 3,807 people rejoined the Church or joined for the first time in 2020 — 28.7% fewer than in 2019, when 4,898 people joined or rejoined.

In addition, 461 people made use of their “right of withdrawal” in 2020. People invoking this right — known as “Recht auf Widerruf” in German — initially declared their intention to leave the Church but decided not to take the step after contacting Church officials within a three-month period.

“In any case, the decisive factors for the slight decline in the number of Catholics are not only the ratio of resignations to Church admissions but above all also the ratio of baptisms to deaths and of arrivals to departures,” said the bishops’ conference.

Other areas of the Austrian Church are defying the downward trend.

In November, the archdiocese of Vienna announced a rise in the number of men training for the priesthood.

Fourteen new candidates entered the archdiocese’s three seminaries this autumn. Eleven of them are from Vienna archdiocese and the remaining three are from the dioceses of Eisenstadt and St. Pölten.

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