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Numerical strength of the clergy

The Roman Catholic Clergy

One of the greatest problems in the German Church remains the drop in the number of priests. While in 1970 there were 25.000 lay priests and clerics, this number was only 20.000 in 1980. The rate of decline has since slowed down. Statistics available for 2010 puts the number of priests at 15.136, including more than one third of retired people. There are not enough priests in active service (only 9.857) for the 11.524 parishes and pastorates. Therefore, many parishes have to share a priest. The high average age of the population and the non-renewal of the generations contribute in painting a rather bleak picture of the future of pastoral vocations.

By encouraging the participation of lay members in Catholic parishes, the drop in the number of priests has led to a radical change - the number of permanent deacons rose from 451 in 1978 to 3.032 in 2010. In Germany, this office has become indispensable in the religious life of the parish. The involvement of the laity in professional positions has also increased in other areas of the pastorate.

Roman Catholic clergy in 2010

Absolute figures Percentage of women
Lay priests 12.931 -
Order priests 2.205 -
Total priests 15.136 -
- Involved in the parish 9.857 -
- Not working (Priests on holiday, retired) 5.279 -
Permanent deacons 3.032 -
Main occupation ("im Hauptberuf") 1.152 -
Secondary occupation ("mit Zivilberuf") 1.880 -
Parish officers / assistants 4.481 77,0%
Pastoral officers /assistants 3.071 41,2%
Members of religious orders 25.511 82,4%
Members of secular institutes 1.881 88,4%

Source : Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (DBK), Personalstatistik (Nachweisungen) für Deutschland, Wohnbevölkerung 2010.

Catholic ordinations, 1962-2010

Year Number
1962 557
1965 500
1970 303
1975 191
1980 211
1985 220
1990 295
1995 186
2000 154
2005 122
2010 81

Source : Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (DBK), Statistik der Neupriester 1962-2010.

The Protestant Clergy

The Protestant Churches employ more than half a million people, 222.721 of which work as staff of the public corporations. In comparison to these figures, the number of theologians (21.488) appears modest – there is one pastor for every 1.723 Protestants. They are of course assisted by deacons, sextons, musicians, office staff and others. The majority of the 453.000 men and women who work in the diaconate are employed in schools and care institutions. The major tasks centre on Church administration. ("Kreiskirchenämter", "Landeskirchenämter").

Furthermore, there are more than one million voluntary workers (1.107.763 in 2010) who carry out a large part of the communal tasks. They serve as members of Church Boards, editorial committees for Church bulletins, visitation teams, etc. Women make up 69,9% of volunteers. For each professional in the German Protestant Church, there are on the average, four or five volunteers.

The Protestant Clergy in 2009

Church workers: Absolute figures Percentage of women
Having tenure 18.576 32,1%
- on full-time basis 14.356 23,7%
- on part-time basis 4.220 60,8%
Without tenure 548 59,3%
On holiday or fulfilling other functions 2.364 38,6%
Total 21.488 33,5%
- in the parishes 14.040 29,6%
- Specific duties 5.554 40,1%

Source: Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), Zahlen und Fakten zum kirchlichen Leben. Kapitel: Hauptamt und Ehrenamt (2009), Hannover 2012.

D 26 July 2012    AMatthias Koenig ASabine Trittler

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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