Majority of Dutch Claim No Religious Affiliation

March 20, 2004

Source: Zenit

On March 20, 2004 Zenit reported, "'Concern and hope' is how Dutch bishops sum up the Church's situation in their country. In a report presented during their recent five-yearly visit to the Vatican, entitled 'The Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands at the Start of a New Millennium,' the prelates paint a sobering picture. Data from parishes at year-end 2002 would suggest that the nation's population of 16.2 million includes more than 5 million Catholics. Yet, this may be an overestimate, the report admits. A 1997 survey found that only 21% of the Dutch population calls itself Catholic. That means one-third of the faithful registered in parishes are only Catholic on paper. The report calculates that in 1995-2002 the number of Catholics has decreased by more than 50,000 annually, while the Dutch population as a whole rose by an average of 100,000 per year. The number of Catholics is roughly equivalent to the ranks of what the report terms 'the churches of the Reformation,' which totaled 22% of the population in 1996. But first place now belongs to those who claim no religious affiliation, 53% in 1996. A study cited in the report estimates that by 2010 two-thirds of the Dutch population between the ages of 21 and 70 will have no religious affiliation. By then, 13% of the population will be Catholic, 9% Protestant, 6% Muslim and 4% other."