72,055 people left the Catholic Church last year – Total number of Catholics in Austria is 4.83 million

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The number of Catholics in Austria again declined slightly last year, but remained largely stable. This is the result of the statistics published on Wednesday by the Austrian dioceses. Accordingly, there are 4.83 million Catholics in Austria as of Dec. 31, 2021. In 2020, there were 4.91 million Catholics, according to official statistics from the Austrian Bishops’ Conference. This corresponds to a decline of around 1.6 percent. One reason for this is increased departures from the church last year. Together with the preliminary Catholic figures, the official church statistics for 2020 were also published on Wednesday with details on church life in Austria.

A total of 72,055 people left the Catholic Church in 2021. In 2020, there were 58,727 people, which at the time was a significant decrease compared to 2019 (67,794 resignations). Obviously, quite a few people may have made up for leaving after communication with state authorities was often limited in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

Church resignations in 2021 were thus slightly higher than those in 2019 (67,794); in 2018, 58,807 Catholics left the church, compared with 53,698 in 2017, 54,969 in 2016, and 56,599 in 2015. In 2010, the church had to record 85,960 resignations – an all-time high – which at the time was due in good part to the disclosure of abuse cases in the church sector.

Church admissions and revocations

As of December 31, 2021, 4,301 people were readmitted or newly admitted to the church. That’s up from 4,068 in 2020 (2019: 4,898; 2018: 5,261; 2017: 5,461; 2016: 5,269; 2015: 5,064).

545 people – up from 461 in 2020 – also exercised their right to revoke in 2021. This refers to people who had initially declared their withdrawal but refrained from doing so after contacting church officials and within a three-month period. In 2019, the church recorded 637 revocations, compared with 565 in 2018. In 2017, 562 people exercised their right to revoke, compared with 518 in 2016 and 602 in 2015.

The figures for 2020 are preliminary. Smaller corrections – especially for new entrants or re-entrants – are still to be expected, as data for the last months of the previous year are not yet comprehensively available in all dioceses. According to experience, the numbers of church admissions (admissions and readmissions) and revocations will still increase slightly.

In addition to the number of people who join the Catholic Church of their own free will, those who are baptized as adults (from the age of 14) must also be included. Here, there is no data yet for 2021. The number of official statistics for 2020 shows 417 baptisms here; in 2019 there were 540 baptisms, in 2018 650 baptisms, in 2017 890, in 2016 433, in 2015 323.

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 baptisms to deaths and inflows to outflows.

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