Increase in baptisms and canonical marriages in Spain by 2022

The Spanish Episcopal Conference today presented the Report on the Activities of the Church, which, as it has been doing for the past 10 years, gathers data on the varied presence of the Church in society.

Maria José Atienza-December 19, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Ester Martín and Francisco César García Magán at the presentation today

Ester Martin, director of the Transparency Office of the Spanish Episcopal Conference and the Secretary General of the bishops, Francisco Cesar García Magán, presented the data for 2022. Broadly speaking, the data are very similar, although slightly lower in almost all aspects than last year.

Although, in general, this presentation was made around the month of June, coinciding also with the "income tax campaign", the bishops have decided to bring this presentation forward to December from now on in order to make known the data of the previous year and not of two previous calendar years. "We will always present the previous year's Report at the end of the calendar year," said the bishops' spokesman, Cesar García Magán.

"The most important thing is the people and the ecclesial realities that are behind it; we cannot just focus on the figures," stressed the Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, who reiterated that "we are proud of our Faith, of our priests and seminarians".

For her part, Ester Martín emphasized that bringing forward the date is a great effort, but it is a way of helping society that demands this transparency and is the fruit of the implementation of the systems of work and accountability in the Spanish dioceses. Martín defended the Church's commitment to transparency and affirmed that "the Church in Spain is a pioneer".

The Report is structured in five blocks in which the general data of the Church are differentiated: number of priests, consecrated life, missionaries, etc.; and the three areas in which it traditionally "divides" its task: the proclamation of the faith, the celebration of the faith and "living the faith". It also breaks down the data concerning the process and distribution of the tax allocation and the diocesan economy.

Less Mass attendance but increase in baptisms and canonical marriages

According to the data in the Report, more than 8,048,484 people regularly attend Mass.

In Spain, more than 9.5 million masses are celebrated every year. The pastoral work of priests totals more than 27,430,000 hours.

Surprisingly, 2022 marked a break in the downward trend in the reception of sacraments. In 2022, there was a notable increase in the number of baptisms (159,129 in 2022 (149,711 in 2021) and confirmations (104,600).

However, one of the most encouraging increases was that of canonical marriages, which rose from 25,762 in 2021 to 35,253 in 2022. However, first communions decreased and anointings of the sick increased slightly.

"The pandemic has been a time of searching for meaning and a return to the parishes," said Ester Martin, referring to this increase.

Generalized decrease except for permanent deacons

One of the aspects that emanate from this report is the slight decrease in the number of priests (15,669), seminarians (974), religious men and women (32,967), catechists (83,435), religion teachers (35,799), missionaries (10,147) and cloistered nuns and monks (7,906).

The only thing that increases is the number of permanent deacons, which will increase from 539 in 2021 to 572 in 2022. This ministry is becoming more and more widespread in Spain and is providing a source of oxygen in places with a shortage of priests.

The number of national lay associations and movements and territorial lay associates also decreased, albeit very slightly, to 80 and 407,563 respectively.

More students of immigrant origin in subsidized schools

One of the most important sections of this report, due to its scope and importance in Spanish society, refers to the presence of the Church in the educational sphere, especially in schools. The 1,502,868 students who attend one of the 2,536 Catholic schools in Spain, the vast majority of which are subsidized.

In this area, there has been a significant increase in the number of students of immigrant origin attending one of these subsidized schools, from 76,283 in 2021 to 82,199. In fact, as the Report points out, 5% of immigrant students are enrolled in subsidized schools.

The Catholic school continues to save the Spanish State a considerable economic amount, in 2022, this saving was 4,213 million euros.

The evident advance of age leaves its mark in the decrease of students in schools and the increase of this figure in universities of Catholic or pontifical inspiration.

If there is one thing that characterizes the Church in Spain, it is its vast cultural heritage. This Mmeoria points out that "all the activity generated by the presence of the cultural heritage of the Church in our country has a total impact on the GDP of Spain of 22,620 million euros, and contributes to the employment of more than 225,000 jobs directly, indirectly and induced".

The conservation of cultural heritage is one of the most important items within the diocesan economies, also due to the generation of employment, tourist wealth and economic impulse that these temples represent for the areas in which they are inserted.

In 2022, the dioceses allocated 47,244,310.75 euros in half a thousand construction, conservation and rehabilitation projects.

Charity, the strong point

The social and assistance work carried out by dioceses, parishes and institutions such as Caritas is one of the keys to the Church's presence today. There have been 3,778,740 people accompanied and assisted in one of the 8,796 assistance centers of the Church.

Although the number of poverty alleviation centers has decreased, the total number of people served hardly varies; in 2021 there were 2,277,434 people while in 2022 there were 2,066,694. A similar trend is observed in the centers for assistance to migrants, refugees and fugitives, which served 90,214 people, a slightly lower number than in 2021, and in those for the defense of life and family where 74,631 people were served.

On the other hand, the Centers to promote work (386) increase, which this year 2022 served 155,906 people, almost 25,000 more than in 2021. The number of

Centers for minors and young people and other centers for the protection of children, which this year increased to 381 with a total of 55,451 beneficiaries, and centers for the promotion of women and victims of violence, which have attended 31,514 women.

Caritas, the visible face of charity in our country, has also seen an increase in the number of people who have turned to it for various forms of assistance: 2,830,156 total beneficiaries and a substantial increase in the resources invested in favor of the most vulnerable, amounting to 457,230,391 euros.

A similar rise has been experienced by Manos Unidas which, despite the decrease in the number of projects, 488, has reached more countries with an amount of 34,782,534 euros thanks to the solidarity of the Spanish people.

The economic block: tax allocation and the diocesan economy

In the chapter on the tax allocation, the report includes the total of 358,793,580 euros that taxpayers have allocated to the Catholic Church, increasing the figure by more than 38 million euros. The total to be distributed among the dioceses was 320,892,666 Euros, once the payment on account for 2022 and the liquidation of the income tax return presented in 2021 (IRPF 2020) had been made.

The total number of declarations in favor of the Church increased in 16 of the 17 autonomous communities (especially in Andalusia, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha and Comunidad Valenciana) and 209,218 people checked the "X" box in favor of the Catholic Church for the first time in their 2022 declaration.

Diocesan finances occupy the penultimate section of this report, which once again deals with the criteria for distributing the money from the tax allocation that is included in the diocesan budget to finance all pastoral, welfare and ordinary maintenance activities. In general, this amount is the second way of financing the dioceses, after the contributions of the faithful, although this point differs in some dioceses that are patrimonially poorer or have few faithful.

Ester Martin wanted to emphasize that the Church, with this financial contribution, is carrying out "a more transparent and efficient work". "She added that the Church's financial contribution makes its work "more transparent and more efficient. Without the presence of the Church "more than 4 million people would not have been able to get help".
In relation to the decline in Mass attendance and the increase in statements in favor of the Church, the spokesman for the Spanish bishops stressed that "we see that the number of people who mark the "x" is much higher than the number of people who go to Mass".

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