Demolishing or repurposing churches in Germany has impact on communities

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)The Bundestag, the parliament of a united Germany, symbolizing the optimism of a united Germany.

Christianity in Germany has been on the decline for some time, but the dwindling number of Catholic churches has come to the fore recently, with some giving way for housing, and others repurposed.

"In recent years, the number of people leaving the Catholic Church has increased, and Protestant denominations are also losing members," according to Quora.

"This trend is largely due to the secularization of society, as more and more people are indifferent to religion."

A declining birth rate is also a factor, as fewer people are being exposed to Christianity at a young age.

Scandals in the Church have not helped its credibility, but the Church has no more scandals than other institutions.

The Church faces stiff competition from some institutions, such as the state, which provides social services and support that were once the domain of the Church.

So, many Germans now see no need for religion in their lives.

DW said that in the last 10 years, the number of Catholic churches across Germany has dwindled as it examined the impact on the faithful.


It showed a photo of climbers hanging from rafters inside a church building in Gelsenkirchen, where a Catholic church has been turned into a climbing gym.

In the northern German city of Kiel, five Catholic churches have recently closed their doors, reported DW.

Most of the 240,000 inhabitants of the state capital of Schleswig-Holstein are Protestants.

It is mainly due to financial hardships that Catholic churches are in decline. The entire city of Kiel is now one large parish with just a few churches.

Some buildings have already disappeared to make way for housing. Although the Church of the Holy Cross in the district of Kiel-Elmschenhagen is still standing, it has been closed.

On Nov. 19, 2022, the Church of the Holy Cross, the only Catholic Church in the district, was formally deconsecrated and subsequently closed — despite opposition from Rüdiger Kirkskothen and other parishioners.

"All our protests failed," the 79-year-old Kirkskothen told DW. "We even wrote to the Vatican. That didn't help either."

Kirkskothen said that the closure of their house of worship hit local families hard.

Immigrants built the Church in 1956 and founded the congregation.

"Their children witnessed their parents' devotion, got baptized, and took communion there. For them, it was simply home," he said, adding that he understands the bitterness and disappointment.

When the Church closed in the nearby Baltic seaside resort of Schönberg, the community "almost completely fell apart," said Kirkskothen.

A significant number of Catholics in Schönberg left the Church entirely.

Currently, the Archdiocese of Hamburg is also closing several churches in the Baltic Sea city of Lübeck and trying to nurture more dialog with local members.

Some parts of Germany have lost a large number of churches over the past two decades, such as the archdiocese of Hamburg, including Kiel.

The number of closures is exceptionally high in Kiel.

The German Bishops' Conference secretariat told DW that 650 Catholic churches have "ceased to be used for worship" nationally since 2005.

From 2019 to 2023, it has lost an average of 28 churches across Germany annually.

As of 2023, one in two Germans no longer belonged to the major Christian churches.

According to the CIA Factbook, of Germany's 84 million people in 2022, 24.8 percent were Roman Catholics, 22.6 percent Protestants, while Muslims accounted for 3.7 percent, and those with no stated belief were 43.8 percent.


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