The Spanish Church in 2021: sacraments and care for the unemployed to be recovered

The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) has published the Annual Report of the Church in Spain for the year 2021.

Maria José Atienza-May 17, 2023-Reading time: 7 minutes
CEE memory

The Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) has presented the Report on the Activities of the Church in Spain for 2021. The Report is published, as highlighted by the spokesman of the EEC, Msgr. Francisco C. Garcia Magán, after knowing the final figure of the result of the Tax Allocation for the year 2021.

The Secretary General of the Spanish bishops pointed out that this Report "aims to be an exercise in transparency and a commitment of the Church that goes beyond informing society. Likewise, García Magán wanted to emphasize that "we do not work for recognition, but it is good that what we work for is recognized".

In this "picture of the Church in Spain", as the bishops' spokesman described it, the growing role of the laity in tasks such as mission and the decline in Sunday Mass attendance stand out, which the bishops blame, among other things, on "the disconnected society in which we live".

In explaining the Report, the director of the Transparency Office, Ester Martín, stressed the Church's growing commitment to transparency. In fact, since the publication of this Report began, "the activity and economic indicators have increased from 70 to 300". 2021, as Martín pointed out, has been the year of "the return to normality in the administration of the sacraments".

The Spanish Church in data

The percentage of the population that considers itself Catholic remains similar to that of the year 2020, with 67.2% of the population, although the number of people who regularly attend Mass has slightly decreased, reaching a little more than 8 million people (8,260,000 people). According to the data in the report, 9,545,952 Eucharists are celebrated each year in Spain. These celebrations are distributed among 16,126 priests who work in one of the 69 Spanish territorial dioceses and the military diocese. With respect to the year 2020, this figure represents a decrease of 442 priests. The report shows the decrease of 3 bishops and, on the contrary, a considerable increase in the number of permanent deacons from 506 to 539 throughout Spain.

Religious and contemplative life maintains its presence with respect to the data collected in 2020. In the case of contemplative life, in Spain it is especially present through 725 monasteries, to which a total of 8,326 cloistered nuns and monks belong. In the previous year, the CEE The total number of monasteries was 735, with a total of 8,326 cloistered nuns and monks, which means the extinction of 10 monasteries and 110 fewer cloistered nuns and monks, mainly due to deaths.

According to CONFER data included in the Report, active religious life maintains its 35,507 religious men and women out of the nearly 5,000 communities that exist in Spain (4,493).

Laity: the bastion of the Church

One of the data that stands out in this report is the indispensable and leading role of the laity in the life of the Spanish Church. Not only through the lay movements and associations that bring together more than 400,000 people in Spain, but also through the millions of people who, personally or as part of a parish, dedicate time, money and work to key tasks in the life of the Church.
In this area, 87,923 catechists and 36,911 teachers of Religion should be mentioned.

For years, the memory of the Church in Spain has been divided into three main blocks: Word (proclamation of the faith), which includes pastoral activity, evangelizing activity, educational activity and cultural activity. Secondly, Liturgy (celebration of the faith), which includes celebrations and pastoral activity; and finally, Charity (living the faith), which includes data on the Church's charitable and welfare activities.

In relation to the proclamation of the faith, the report points to the 11,457 parishes located in rural areas in Spain, which represents 49% of the parish communities in the country. In these parishes, priests dedicate more than 28 million hours to the administration of the sacraments, pastoral work, visits to the sick, parish office hours and spiritual accompaniment.

Announcing the faith. Increasing number of families on mission 

One of the most interesting chapters of these data presented by the Spanish Episcopal Conference focuses on the Church's missionary activity. Spain is one of the countries with the greatest number of missionaries spread throughout the world, especially in Europe and America. At this point, the report refers to the 10,382 spread throughout the world. They are only about 300 less than last year, but, above all, one fact stands out: the increase in the number of missionary families. If in 2020 there were 528 families on mission, in 2021 the figure stands at 542 Spanish families on mission. This is a sign of the importance and growth of this shared missionary vocation in today's world.

The "New Evangelization" fund of the EEC that attends to the needs of evangelization throughout the world has invested, in 2021, 2,285,205 euros in 222 projects, ranging from construction and restoration of temples and monasteries, aid for the pastoral formation of priests, religious and diocesan seminaries to the acquisition of pedagogical materials for catechization.

As for the data on the educational activity carried out by the Spanish Church, these remain at levels very similar to those of the previous year. More than one and a half million Spanish students benefit from this quality education, "which is in great demand by parents and which represents a significant saving for the State due to the efficiency in the management of spending in the centers and the low amount of subsidized education compared to public education". In addition to the 2,412 Catholic subsidized schools in Spain, there are 17 universities that bring together some 131,422 undergraduate or graduate students.

Spain has, in turn, a particularly important impact in the case of the cultural heritage belonging to the Church. On this point, the report lists the total impact on the GDP of all the activity generated by the presence of the Church's cultural heritage, which amounts to "22,620 million euros, and contributes to the employment of more than 225,000 jobs directly, indirectly and induced". In 2021, the Spanish dioceses allocated 49,505,061.25 euros to 477 projects of construction, conservation and rehabilitation of temples.

Within this cultural heritage are also the brotherhoods, in which more than one million Spaniards live their faith in brotherhood and which take care of an important bulk of Spain's tangible and intangible heritage.

Liturgy. Recovery of the sacramental celebration

The 2021 report includes a key fact: the increase in sacramental activity in Spain. It should be noted that the 2020 report covered the hard time of confinement and restriction of community celebrations. The opening of temples, as well as the decrease in the incidence of the pandemic, has been reflected in the recovery of sacramental life in Spain.

The number of baptisms, marriages, communions and confirmations increased, while the number of anointings of the sick decreased.

In 2021, according to the Report, 149,711 baptisms, 182,760 first communions, 103,584 confirmations, 25,762 marriages and 27,045 anointings of the sick were celebrated in Spain.

As it has been doing for years, the report also includes the number of hours dedicated to pastoral activity by priests, volunteers and lay people, which also increased with respect to 2020, reaching over 41 million (41,222,557).

A special section is dedicated to the pastoral care of health. In Spain there are 815 chaplains and more than 18,000 people are dedicated to this area of pastoral care, accompanying about 170,000 people in homes and hospitals.

In relation to prison ministry, almost a thousand projects have been developed in Spain in this field, especially focused on the social area: training, awareness and accompaniment.

The pastoral care of the sea has assisted more than 40,000 merchant seafarers through its 125 pastoral agents and 14 chaplaincies.

Charity. Increased care for unemployed people

The Church's work on behalf of the needy and vulnerable is always a highlight of the Church's annual report of activities. This year, the section that the Church devoted last year to addressing the consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic is no longer included.

With regard to care centers, in 2021, 3,938,870 people were accompanied and cared for in one of the 8,864 Church centers (social, health and care centers).

The increase in the number of people who, in 2021, went to one of the 6,309 Church poverty alleviation centers in Spain is striking: 2,277,434 people were served in these centers which, despite being somewhat fewer in number (in 2020 there were 6,664), served about 30,000 more people than last year.

In addition to this number, almost 126,000 people were served in the 311 centers to promote work and more than 100,000 immigrants attended various immigrant care centers.

Women, family and minors are the focus of other data referred to in this report. Nearly 80,000 parents in difficulty, couples in crisis situations, etc., were assisted in these centers in 2021, while almost 50,000 minors were cared for in the 374 centers for minors and child protection that the Church maintains in Spain.

The Church in Spain also maintains a constant and consolidated attention to vulnerable women, victims of violence or women with children in their care alone. In this regard, 29,124 women attended these centers during the year. The report also includes the more than 70,000 elderly, chronically ill and disabled people that the Church cared for in 2021.

Caritas and Manos Unidas 

Although both Caritas and Manos Unidas present their data on an annual basis, this Annual Report provides a brief summary of the key data on the performance of both institutions in Spain and in third world countries.

In the case of Caritasmore than 2.5 million people (2,621,102), of which 1,612,972 people in Spain, have been assisted by Caritas in 2021 with a total of 403,158,987 euros invested in projects and aid.

Manos Unidas, for its part, carried out 721 projects in Asia, America and Africa, benefiting more than 1.5 million people and to which Spaniards contributed more than 33 million euros.

Tax allocation

The economic chapter of the Report also includes consolidated data on the Tax Allocation to the Church. In 2021 the faithful allocated 321,015,984 euros to the Catholic Church. The second highest figure since the beginning of the tax allocation.

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