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Mass travel increased, but down 40% from 2017

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Attendance at Sunday Masses in Belgium increased slightly in 2022 after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, but attendance was still down 40% from 2017, according to new figures released on Wednesday.

Sunday Mass attendance averaged 166,785 Sundays in 2021 amid coronavirus pandemic containment measures, according to the church’s latest annual report, published Nov. 15. This is an increase of 6,183 people from 2017.

However, the church’s official website shows that attendance at Sunday Mass has decreased from 286,393 in 2017 to 172,968 in 2022, a drop of more than 113,000 people in six years. he pointed out.

According to the Catholic Church in Belgium 2023 report, 50% of Belgium’s approximately 12 million people will identify as Catholic in 2022, down from 53% in 2017, and 8.9% will identify as Catholic. I attend Mass at least once a month.

From 2017 to 2022, the number of baptisms (-15%), confirmations (-21%), Catholic marriages (-12%), parish priests (-33%), and religious priests (-22%) increased significantly. Diminished. , Permanent Deacon (-5%), Parish (-6%).

However, the church stressed that some of the numbers for 2022 were higher than in 2021.

The number of baptisms increased from 36,834 in 2021 to 43,327 in 2022 (up 18%), and the number of marriages jumped from 4,032 to 6,947 (up 72%). The number of adult baptisms also increased, from 162 in 2021 to 225 in 2022 (an increase of 39%).

Belgium is a country about the same size as the US state of Maryland and borders the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and France.

The country saw a resurgence of pilgrims last year as well.

A total of 1.27 million pilgrims visited Belgium’s four large Marian shrines in 2022: Banu, Bohlin, Oostacker and Scherpenheufel. Banu received 220,000 pilgrims, Bohlin with her 200,000, Oostacker with his 250,000, and Scherpenheubel with his 600,000.

On the other hand, the number of requests for “debaptism” sharply decreased in 2022 after rapidly increasing in the previous year. In 2021, it was 5,237 people and in 2022, it was 1,270 people (-75%).

When a Catholic in Belgium requests to be “debaptized,” the request is recorded in the margins of the church’s baptismal register, but the baptismal entry is not deleted.

The Catholic Church teaches that “baptism stamps on a Christian an indelible spiritual seal of his belonging to Christ.” A person can neglect the practice of faith or even completely abandon it, but it is impossible to reverse the effects of baptism.

The new figures do not reflect the impact of the documentary series Godforsaken, which aired in Belgium in September and caused a backlash. The series, which highlighted clergy abuse and cover-ups, sparked a parliamentary investigation and reportedly sparked a surge in Catholics leaving the church.

Archbishop Luc Terlinden, President of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference, said in his introduction to the new report: It is more important than ever to pursue the path of recognition and reparations successfully launched by a parliamentary committee in 2010. Only the truth will set us free. ”

Terlinden, who was appointed archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in June, was referring to a parliamentary committee set up in October 2010 following the resignation of Roger Vanherwe, Bishop of Bruges, who admitted to abusing his nephew. Ta. Van Helwe, now 87, remains a bishop despite calls from other Belgian prelates to renounce the title.

The church announced that between July 2022 and June 2023, there were 47 reports of abuse at its contact point. Seven cases were referred to the judicial system because the statute of limitations for the cases was unclear or the alleged abuser posed a potential danger. 23 people received financial compensation.

The new report also noted that in September 2022, the bishops of Belgium’s Flanders region established a “homosexuality and faith” desk.

“In this way, the Flemish bishops wish to specifically respond to the request for explicit consideration of the situation of homosexuals, their parents and their families in the administration of the Church,” the report said. states.

The effort began with a three-page document outlining a new pastoral approach, including language allowing for the ritual blessing of same-sex couples.

Flemish bishops discussed the document with members of the Holy See and the Pope during their November 2022 conference. Advertising restrictions However, the Vatican has not made any public comment on the Belgian document.

respond dubiaIn response to questions raised or questions raised by five cardinals in July, Pope Francis said, “Pastoral prudence…is a blessing requested by one or more people that does not mislead the marriage. We need to properly assess whether there is any form of this.”

The new figures show that the number of parish priests in Belgium has fallen from 2,774 in 2017 to 1,859 in 2022, which is a reduction in the number of priests in Belgium by 915 (a third). It means there is. The number of religious priests also decreased from 2,205 to 1,723 (-22%) over the same period.

The number of parishes decreased from 3,846 to 3,613. All eight dioceses in Belgium now group parishes into larger pastoral units.

In 2022, 22 churches will be abolished and three will be given to other Christian communions.

Belgian federal authorities pay the salaries of those appointed as “ministers of religion,” but this arrangement may be revisited in the wake of the documentary “Godforsaken.”

In the Catholic Church, this payment covers not only the salaries of priests and deacons, but also lay members appointed by bishops.

The Belgian Church has 2,277 “ministers of religion”, including 509 women and 486 from outside Belgium. There are 162 participants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has historical ties to the country, 42 from France, and 22 from Poland.

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