In 2020, 9,821 people left the Catholic Church in Styria. This trend may seem positive. Unfortunately, the number of Catholics continues to decline, says Thomas Stanzer, spokesman for the Graz-Seckau diocese: “We feel sorry for everyone who leaves our community and it is important for us to emphasize that the Catholic Church Styria is of course there for everyone who needs help – be it specifically through our Caritas or in the form of spiritual support or with many other offers. “
Believe in times of crisis
Overall, the overall social trend towards looser affiliation with the church is still evident, but at the same time, the lower number of departures compared to previous years also shows that many people hold on to their faith in this challenging year of crisis. “Many people noticed the charitable and spiritual commitment of the church this year. The importance of community has also become more aware again in times of isolation and distance,” says Edith Wieser, head of the church contribution office of the Graz-Seckau diocese. From feedback we know that the commitment of the full-time and voluntary employees of the telephone counseling and the pastoral workers, who were available for discussions in the spring via the ‘You are not alone’ hotline, has stopped many people in our country have given.
The conversations with those who had left, who had little connection to the church from the start, were particularly exciting and encouraging. Time and again, long and very valuable conversations were held here. “This shows us that people care about their faith. Dealing with their faith is more important than ever, especially in times of crisis,” said Wieser.
New ways of pastoral care
When leaving, the church contribution office (Project Pastoral Initiative) seeks telephone contact with those who turn their backs on the Catholic Church. “From the past few years we have learned that the quality of pastoral care is decisive for the relationship between people and the church,” says Edith Wieser. Special attention was paid to this in 2020. It is important to be there, to listen and to take people’s worries and needs seriously. In the lockdown months, a lot has shifted into the digital space and the church has tried to be present and there. Many parishes and pastors have exhausted their creative potential and kept in contact with people or made new ones. In many places a big step has been taken towards a new, “virtual pastoral care” that is honest and loving with people and accompanies them. The Catholic Church of Styria wants to continue working on this and make good use of both real and digital space.
In addition to the resignations, 920 people re-entered the church last year (1,114 people in 2019). 102 more have withdrawn their departure (2019: 120 people). These are the Catholics who initially declared their exit, but refrained from taking this step again within the period of three months.
Formally, it is sufficient to go to a priest of your own choice for re-entry and take this step there in an uncomplicated manner. “Church fees for the period of non-membership do not have to be paid later,” explains Stefanie Schwarzl-Ranz, Head of the Pastoral & Theology Department of the Graz-Seckau diocese, “We are happy about everyone who finds their way back to us. Everyone is welcome and who is looking forward to them Letting in the contents of the church will realize that there is much to discover for one’s own salvation. “
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Diocese GrazSeckau current figures resignations number Styrian Catholics falling