For the first time, fewer than 50 per cent of Belgian children were baptised as Catholics last year, according to figures from the Belgian Bishops Conference in cooperation with the University of Louvain and reported by Evangelical Focus.
The figures show that since 2010, the decline of baptisms has been the sharpest in the Brussels diocese (32 per cent) and in Antwerp (31 per cent).A spokesman of the Bishops Conference, Geert De Kerpel, acknowledged the drop, saying: ‘Like any other organisation, we would prefer a growth rather than a decline, but we will not start a promotional campaign.
‘In the society we see an evolution from a church to which people belonged automatically to a group of people that choose consciously to be part of the church. When people are really convicted they specifically decide to have their children baptised and they will stimulate them to belong to the church.’
According to Evangelical Focus, there has been a ‘growing secularisation of Belgium’s society’ which has seen church attendance gradually dropping to less than 10 per cent.
Evangelical Focus added that in contrast to the Catholic Church, ‘Belgium witnesses a growth of evangelical churches and Muslim communities. The increase of the number of Muslims is mainly due to natural growth and immigration. But newcomers from other countries are also the most important cause for evangelical churches to grow: many of the new communities have their origins in African countries; in particular, Christians arriving in Belgium from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana establish churches in the larger cities.’