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Adult baptisms ‘boom’ in France and Belgium

The number of adults seeking baptism in the Catholic Church in France and Belgium continues to rise rapidly, according to new figures released in Holy Week, making for a surprise bit of Easter good news.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.


The number of adult baptisms in France has increased by 30%, from 5,463 in 2023 to 7,135 in 2024, the French bishops’ conference reported March 27.


The number of baptisms of adolescents — young people aged 11 to 17 who are in middle or high school — has also risen sharply, from 2,861 in 2023 to 5,025 in 2024.

The figures are the highest since the French bishops’ conference began tabulating the data more than 20 years ago.


The number of adult baptisms has also continued to rise over the border in Belgium, almost doubling in a decade, from 186 in 2014 to 362 in 2024, the Belgian bishops’ conference announced March 26. 

France and Belgium are both traditionally Catholic nations that have seen a deep erosion in Catholic practice in recent decades. 

Around 29% of France’s population of 68 million identify as Catholic, but only 8% of Catholics are regular Massgoers.

Roughly half of Belgium’s 12 million population identifies as Catholic, with 8.9% of Catholics attending Mass at least once a month.


French Catholic media began reporting in January on an “unexpected boom” in catechumens, or baptism candidates.

“In the space of two years, the number of catechumens aged between 15 and 25 has literally soared in France,” the French Catholic weekly Famille chrétienne said, noting that the trend had accelerated significantly in September 2023, when the French school year began.

It quoted Bérengère Melot, who oversees the catechumenate in the Diocese of Le Mans, as saying: “There hasn’t been a week since the start of the school year when I haven’t received one, two, or even three requests from young people of that age.”

Famille chrétienne suggested that the rise was surprising, given that the French Church has suffered an extended crisis since the release of a devastating abuse study in 2021.

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The French bishops’ conference confirmed earlier reports of a surge in a 24-page dossier released Wednesday.

In the foreword to the document, Bishop Olivier Leborgne, head of the French bishops’ department for catechesis, wrote: “In almost every diocese in France, people are coming to the Church to ask for baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, sometimes in a movement of bewildering proportions.” 

“They have come about through identified paths, having intersected with our pastoral projects and missionary endeavors, but they also arrive as part of a personal process that has taken a completely unexpected path.” 

“In a world in search of meaning, Christ and his Gospel are speaking to people who had never heard of him before. Many are witnessing authentic experiences of salvation, the kind that lift you up, straighten you out, restore your confidence, and reopen your future. How can we fail to give thanks?”

The dossier reported that 10 French dioceses will have twice as many baptisms this year as in 2023, while 21 dioceses have seen increases of 50% or more.

“All age groups are on the rise, but the biggest increase is among young people aged 18 to 25,” it said. “In fact, these young people represent 36% of baptized adults, compared with only 23% before the pandemic period.”

Roughly two-thirds of the adults are female and a third male — a split that has remained constant in recent years. 

The report said that the number of adults with no religious background was “increasing significantly,” accounting for a quarter of the total. Almost two-thirds are from another Christian tradition, while 5% have Muslim origins.

The predominantly rural ecclesiastical provinces of Besançon, Dijon, and Clermont recorded the highest rises, underlining that the increase is not limited to French cities. 

The Diocese of Saint-Claude, in the ecclesiastical province of Besançon in eastern France, saw a more than 200% increase, with 8 catechumens in 2023 and 27 in 2024.

The Île-de-France region, which includes the capital Paris, recorded a 27% rise compared to 2023, after years of relatively stable figures. The ecclesiastical province of Paris will see 1,861 baptisms this year, compared to 1,461 in 2023.

Addressing the growth in baptisms among adolescents also recorded in the dossier, Fr. Vincent Breynaert wrote: “It is difficult to establish the profiles of these young people, because the social origins and the motivations that drive them are as diverse as their geographical distribution, but they have in common that they have had a spiritual experience and a personal encounter with Christ.” 

“A certain number say they were touched by the beauty of a liturgy, the soothing silence of a church, the testimony of a friend.”

He added: “In a society where 80% of young people have received no religious education, these young ‘called ones’ have few preconceived ideas about the Church, but they are thirsty for formation, reference points, fraternity, and roots.” 

“On social networks, many of them follow the accounts of influencers or living communities. We need to support their specific needs, but also their desire to know, to pray, and to witness.”


Writing at Aleteia in February, the historian Paul Airiau noted that adult baptisms have increased in France since 2001, with more than 78,000 adults receiving the sacrament in the past 23 years.

But he stressed that the rise in adult baptisms did not make up for a decline in infant baptisms, meaning that the overall trend is downward. 

Airiau suggested that these changes marked a shift in French Catholicism away from “multitudinisme” — a conviction that the Church is for the entire population regardless of affiliation — toward a “religion of individual choice.”

A similar pattern may be occurring in Belgium, where the overall number of baptisms fell by 15% between 2017 and 2022, from 50,867 to 43,327. But the 2022 figure marked a notable increase on 2021, when 36,834 people were baptized.

Meanwhile, the number of adult baptisms in Belgium has risen, with slight fluctuations, from 2010, to reach the new height of 362 this year.

Jeffrey Schoenaers, a 29-year-old who is preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil in Tienen, in Belgium’s Flanders region, said that the death of his grandfather had raised existential questions that led him to the Church.

“I started reading books and discovered that Christianity was part of my identity. It was like rediscovering my own culture, a renaissance,” he told Kerknet, the official website of the Catholic Church in Flanders.

“God and the Catholic faith welcomed me with open arms. My interest kept growing and I thought: rather a meaningful life than a meaningless existence.”

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