German priest ordinations plummet to a new low

(Photo: REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini)Cardinals Reinhard Marx (R) of Germany and Joao Braz de Aviz attend a mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 12, 2013. All cardinals, including those over 80 who will not vote in the conclave, celebrate Mass in St Peter's Basilica to pray for the election of the new pope. The Mass is called "Pro Eligendo Romano Pontefice" ("For the Election of the Roman Pontiff") and is open to the public.

The number of men becoming Catholic priests in Germany has dropped to its lowest level ever say the country's bishops.

There were only 58 ordinations into the Catholic clergy in 2015, according to new figures released by the German Episcopal Conference.

That numbers dropped by more than half over the last 10 years, when 122 priests were ordained in 2005.

The number of ordinations was nearly five times higher 50 years ago, when 500 were ordained in 1965.

While there were almost 20,000 Catholic priests in Germany in 1990, today their number has already dropped to 14,000, Catholic News Agency reports.

And this severe decline looks set to continue, after the evaluation of the figures.

Last year, for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in Germany the number of new seminarians dropped to double digits.

Only 96 new students were registered in 2015. At the same time, 309 priests passed away, and 19 left the priesthood.

The crisis of vocations to the priesthood is not just one of sheer numbers said CNA.

A recent academic study showed that amongst the current clergy, 54 percent go to confession only "once a year or less."

Official numbers, published in July, further ratify the steep drop of the faith is not just restricted to the number of vocations.

Average church attendance in Germany is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015. Those departing the church has increased in the same period, having peaked at over 200,000 annually in recent years.

There are more than 23.7 million Catholics in Germany and they are the largest religious group in the country, making up 29 percent of the population.

However, CNA reports that people are leaving the church rapidly.

In 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed according to official statistics published in July. By comparison, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to Catholicism.

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