Friday, January 21, 2011

Leaving Austrian church
Disillusionment with the Church strong in Salzburg

The mass exodus from the Catholic Church in Austria has been particularly strong in Salzburg, which saw a dramatic increase in people terminating their membership in 2010.

In 2009 in Salzburg 4,441 people officially left the Catholic Church. This figure grew by 61 per cent in 2010, as 7,163 people distanced themselves from the Church.

Ernst Pöttler, a priest from Itzling said: "Each person that turns away from the Church is one person too many. The Church needs to find a new direction. I feel that everyone is too preoccupied with Rome and are afraid of the pope, rather than listening to people and taking them seriously."

The Church in Itzling lost 90 members of its congregation in 2010, significantly more than in 2009. "With a few people I was able to discuss possible options, others just quit" said Pöttler.

Most people leaving the Church have not lost their religious faith, but simply want nothing more to do with the Church, because they have lost connection with it.

Pöttler, who is a well known figure in the local community and enjoys a good reputation, said that the Church is not facing any financial consequences at this stage, but in the future some employees may no longer be able to stay in their positions: "If it comes down to it I shall have to face that too. In the end we are the ones who pay for it."

Junior priest Christoph Schobesberger explained how the Church is planning to tackle the large amount of deserters: "We are going to look at the statistics in detail, analyse the age of the people and see where the problem is most acute."

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