Swiss vacate church pews

The census suggests more and more Swiss are turning their backs on church pews Keystone

More and more Swiss are turning away from the church, according to national census statistics.

This content was published on March 29, 2002 - 20:27

Twelve per cent of Swiss declared in the 2000 federal census that they were not members of any religion. A decade ago, the figure stood at only 7.4 per cent.

The Protestant Church in Switzerland has registered a significant fall in the number of regular Sunday worshippers.

In 1950, 56.3 per cent of the Swiss population declared themselves to be members of the Protestant community.

Collated figures from the 2000 census suggest that the number of Protestants in Switzerland has now fallen to around 37 per cent.

Catholics on the rise

The Catholic Church, meanwhile, appears to have a little more to celebrate over the Easter weekend.

Statistics suggest the number of Catholics in Switzerland has risen from 41.6 per cent in 1950 to 44 per cent today.

Analysts say the slight increase can be explained by the arrival of a large number of immigrants from Italy, Spain and Portugal during the 1960s and 1970s.

"Churches have lost their monopoly and are now faced with competition," explains Alfred Dubach, a theologian at the Swiss Institute of Pastoral Sociology in St Gallen.

"Religion no longer has a central place in peoples' lives ... it will not disappear, but it has now taken second place," he adds.

The census also reveals that those most likely to turn away from regular visits to church are young people aged between 20 and 35.

Though the total number of churchgoers appears to be in decline, the statistics also indicate that around 90 per cent of children are still baptised in Switzerland.

"Parents want to give their offspring a good start in life," Dubach explains.

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