Women and lay people are now in the majority in Belgium’s Catholic Church, the Flemish weekly Knack reported on Tuesday, based on the annual report of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference.
However, despite this new phenomenon, women are still under-represented in many services. They are totally absent from the liturgy and catechism, make up only 22% of episcopal councils, and comprise just 37% of the staff of the Church’s financial services and factories.
On the other hand, they are a majority (56%) of inspectors in the education sector, while 68% of the people doing pastoral work in hospitals and nursing homes are women. This is in line with the “spirit of the times”, according to the report, which notes that “in many places, the social struggle is waged by women,” such as the young climate activists.
The Church has 51% of lay people and it is diversifying: there are 155 foreign Catholic communities and 20% of the 2,260 ministers are of foreign origin.
Finally, the Church continues to shrink. In 2018 there were 11% fewer baptisms than in 2016, while marriages went down by 14%, the frequentation of eucharistic celebrations decreased by 17% and confirmations went down by 4%.
“There is nothing that says the Church can grow only in a culture in which it is dominant,” the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Jozef De Kesel, stressed. “It does not necessarily need to represent the entire population. We remain relevant in many aspects of society.”