In 2021 more than five thousand people deregistered from the parish registers
In Belgium, 5,237 baptised people were deregistered from the parish register in 2021, four times as many as in 2020, when 1,261 people deregistered. This was revealed Wednesday in the annual report of the Catholic Church in Belgium.
In March 2021, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was asked about the Catholic Church's ability to bless same-sex unions. The Vatican institute, concerned with the doctrine, reiterated that homosexuality remains a sin. The annual report of the Catholic Church in Belgium points to the enormous media attention it received at the time as one possible explanation for the rise in the number of people removed from the parish register last year.
Those removed from the register are no longer associated with the Catholic Church, meaning they can no longer receive sacraments. People who wish to be removed from the record only need to send a standard letter to the diocese of the place where their baptism took place.
Furthermore, the fifth report shows a further decline in the number of people being baptised, taking first or solemn communion and marrying before the church. In 2021, 36,834 people were baptised, 5,217 fewer than in 2019. Last year, 4,035 church marriages were performed, compared to 5,971 in 2019.
Due to the corona crisis in 2020, no figures are available for that year. "The next data collection will have to show whether the pre-corona pandemic figures are met again," the report mentions. Furthermore, it highlights that the church in Belgium is very diverse. For example, 20 per cent of priests, deacons and parish assistants are of foreign origin, and there are 150 immigrant Catholic communities. "The Catholic Church in our country supports them by sharing or transferring church buildings with them."
With reduced church attendance and secularisation, the church needs to look for "new ways to valorise the religious patrimony" and "new forms of church use for the faithful and the general public". In 2021, 35 churches were withdrawn from worship.
© BELGA PHOTO Thierry Roge