17 years have passed since that Ratzinger interview and the data has almost collapsed everywhere. From “irrefutable”, the numbers seem to have become irredeemable.
In a study commissioned by the Bishops' Conference, researchers at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg are even more pessimistic than Ratzinger: the total of Christian denominations - adding up the Catholic and Protestant ones - will fall from the current 45 million to 34 million in 2035 and will halve to 22 million within 40 years. The number of Protestants in the next generation will fall from the current 21.5 million to 10.5 million, while that of Catholics from 23 million to 12.3 million.
This is due to demographic decline and dropouts. In the north and east of the country, Christians will be only a small minority with 3.8 and 1.5 million, respectively. The main Protestant churches already saw their percentage halved from 59 to 29 per cent. And today, as Erik Flügge explains in a new book, “90 percent of church members do not participate in community life”.
The demolitions will not stop at 540 churches. “We are just beginning this development”, said Albert Gerhards of the University of Bonn. “If there is no rethinking, a sharp increase in demolitions is foreseeable in the coming years”.
In Europe's most important country, Andreas Püttmann, a researcher with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, wrote a book in which he called the situation Gesellschaft ohne Gott, the society without God.
But he is wrong.
Christianity is dying. but Islam is rising.