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Swedes depart church in droves

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08:44 CEST+02:00
Swedes continue to turn their backs on the Church of Sweden with new figures indicating that the longer term fall in members has now started to hit baptisms and weddings.

The Church of Sweden has experience a steep and continual decline in the number of confirmations, worshippers and members since 2004, but until now baptisms and weddings have helped to boost church attendance figures, and revenues.

"We have left the homogeneous society," said Jonas Bromander at the Church of Sweden to the newspaper.

The church was long the venue of choice for Swedish wedding couples but the figures, presented in the church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning, show that the proportion of weddings performed by the Church of Sweden has now fallen from 53.9 to 40.9 percent from 2004 to 2009.

Even baptisms, long a popular symbolic gesture of church membership among Swedes, have also declined dramatically in popularity, dropping from 68 to 56 percent over the five year period.

Over the ten years since the church was separated from the state, the proportion of the population retaining a membership of the church has fallen from 82.9 percent to 71.3 percent, with 73,400 people leaving the church in 2009.

Jonas Bromander forecast that the fall in the faithful would continue and settle at around 60 percent in ten years.

"This is the time curve in a situation that is very much shaped by our history. We see similar curves for all the churches that are associated with a majority culture and where religion has become something that we face as an active choice," said archbishop Anders Wejryd.

Even if the decline appears set to continue, Wejryd considers the church's confirmation work.

"I am extremely happy that each autumn we are able to scrape together 40,000 young people. There is no other organisation that is able, not within sport not a political party youth league," he said.

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