Swiss Catholics dwindled by record amount in 2021

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 While non-belief is gaining ground in Switzerland, over half of the population still prays. Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Over 34,000 people left the Catholic Church in Switzerland last year, the highest ever annual figure. Protestants also dwindled.This content was published on October 28, 2022 – 15:59October 28, 2022 – 15:59


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Across the country, the proportion of members who left the Catholic Church in 2021 was 1.1%, the Swiss Institute for Pastoral Sociology (SPI) reported on Friday.

The number of leavers, at 34,182, was up from 31,410 in 2020, and 31,772 in 2019 – the previous record. At the end of 2021 however, the Catholic Church – Switzerland’s biggest – still counted 2.96 million members, or 33.8% of the population.


MoreIs Switzerland a Christian nation?This content was published on Dec 24, 2019Although Christianity dominates the Swiss religious landscape, the Alpine country is home to a variety of other religions and sects.

The trend was not uniform across the country however: in the French-speaking cantons of Geneva, Valais, Neuchâtel and Vaud, almost no members left. The SPI puts this down to the different structures in place – in these cantons, as opposed to in the German-speaking part of the country, there is no formal affiliation with the church which members can subsequently decide to sever.

Across the rest of the country, the rate of desertion was 1.5%, comparable to neighbouring Germany (1.6%) and Austria (1.5%).

The reasons for leaving, according to a 2019 survey by the Federal Statistical Office, include disagreement with the Catholic stance on issues like homosexuality and abortion, as well as a “general distrust” of the Church’s powerful position in society.

The Protestant Church, meanwhile, Switzerland’s second-biggest church representing 21.8% of the population, also shed 28,540 members last year.


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