Swiss Bishops Decry Record Exodus from Catholic Church

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The Swiss Catholic bishops issued a statement Wednesday lamenting reports of record-breaking emigration out of the Catholic Church in the country.

“In 2019, more people than ever before left the Catholic Church in a single year,” the bishops noted, following the conclusion of a virtual General Assembly of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. “As a new phenomenon it can be observed that older people are now also leaving the church.”

The bishops made reference to a November 19 report by the Swiss Pastoral Sociological Institute (SPI) presenting 2019 data on people leaving the Catholic Church in Switzerland.

In their statement, the bishops expressed concern that the trend may continue, while attempting to downplay the importance of numbers.

“The bishops assume that the pandemic could accelerate this development in the coming months,” the statement reads. “The trend is worrying and will bring about changes in the medium to long term.”

“Nevertheless, the bishops affirm that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is much more than a collection of facts and figures,” the statement continues. “In the current environment — which is also self-inflicted — the mission of the church can only be fulfilled amidst great obstacles.”

The new statistics show that the Catholic Church in Switzerland lost 31,772 members in 2019, or 1.1 percent of its total membership. The 2019 figures represent a 25 percent increase over the previous year, which saw 25,366 people leave. The majority of those leaving are between 25 and 34 years of age.

The report also offered a summary of the reasons people give for leaving the Church, the most common of which are a lack or loss of faith and disagreement with the public statements of the religious communities. Younger people often say they have no faith or have lost it, whereas people between 40 and 75 years old tend to say they were unhappy with the public statements of the Church.

Significantly more Catholics left the Church than Reformed Christians, the report stated, even though the number of Reformed leaving the Church has also increased in recent years.

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