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Report: Number of Austrians Leaving Church Drops

January 12, 2007

From the Guardian:

In Austria, even if the rate of withdrawals keeps slowing, parishes will conduct far more funerals than baptisms because of changing demographics, said Elizabeth Rathgeb, who works with the Diocese of Innsbruck.

“People today are more individualistic. They don’t want to be part of a big organization that tells them what to think and believe,” said Georg Plank, a Catholic lay leader in the southern city of Graz. “Perhaps some still suspect it’s like that in the church.”

But Monsignor Wilfried Kreuth, a cleric tracking the trend in the diocese of St. Poelten, where church departures slowed by more than 27 percent last year, called the shift “new and encouraging.”

Underscoring how believers are now bucking the trend, the Vienna archdiocese – one of Europe’s largest – said about 4,600 believers who had left the church in recent years reregistered as members in 2006, up from 4,009 in the previous year.

Vienna, the capital, recorded a 20 percent decline in the numbers of churchgoers who formally filed paperwork to withdraw. It was the lowest number of people to abandon the church since 1983, the archdiocese said.

(…)

Archdiocese spokesman Erich Leitenberger cited a recent survey showing that more than four in 10 of Austria’s 8.2 million people attend Mass at least once a month, and 33 percent pack pews for Christmas, Easter and other major religious holidays.* He said this suggests “the constant harping about a church crisis” is overblown.

“Nobody can suppress the three basic long-term questions. … Where have I come from? Where am I going? And what’s the meaning of my life?” he said.

See also:
Off the Record: We won! We won! We’re losing slowly!

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