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Record number of Swiss Catholics left the Church in 2021

Record number of Swiss Catholics left the Church in 2021

A record number of Swiss Catholics formally left the Church in 2021, according to new statistics.

The Swiss Institute of Pastoral Sociology (SPI) in St. Gallen said that 34,182 people left the Church last year, around 2,500 more than in the previous record-setting year of 2019.

Around 2.96 million people remained members of the Church at the end of 2021, out of a total Swiss population of roughly 8.7 million.

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The Protestant Church in Switzerland also reported a record number of departures in 2021, with 28,540 exits.

Switzerland is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons. The latest Church departure figures do not include cantons where membership is not linked to the payment of church tax, such as Geneva, Valais, Neuchâtel, and Vaud, reported the Swiss Catholic Church website

The rate of departures varied from canton to canton. Basel-Stadt, Switzerland’s northernmost canton, recorded the highest exit rate of 3.6%, while the nearby cantons of Aargau and Solothurn also recorded relatively high figures of 2.4%.

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The overall exit rate was 1.5%, which said was comparable to the rates in neighboring Germany and Austria.

A record 359,338 people formally left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2021. The previous high was 272,771, recorded in 2019.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 59-year-old Bishop Valerio Lazzeri, who had led the Diocese of Lugano in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, since 2013.

Lazzeri said he had decided to resign because of an “inner fatigue” that he had felt especially in the past two years.

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