Catholic baptisms have taken a plunge in Switzerland as the tradition of the Christian rite of initiation takes on water in the country.

Driving the news

RTS reported this week, citing figures from the Swiss French-language daily Le Nouvelliste, that baptisms in Switzerland dropped 14.1% between 2012 and 2018.

The decline was even more pronounced in the Sion diocese, in the Valais canton, where Le Nouvelliste is published.

In that local Church, baptisms dropped 20.4% in the same period of six years.

Go deeper

Vicar general of the diocese of Sion, Pierre-Yves Maillard, blamed secularisation for the plunge in parents having their children christened.

“In an increasingly individualistic society, where ties are often temporary, and where the dimension of community identity is ever more blurry, it is obvious that a proposal like that of baptism becomes more and more incongruous or foreign for many people”, Maillard explained.

Still, Maillard said the drop in baptisms is a wake-up call for the Church.

“Of course it worries us and it must push us to offer the faith in ever-better ways, without ever imposing it, without ever forcing, in a missionary dynamic which is more and more coherent and authentic”, the priest admitted.

That much, according to Maillard, without catastrophic thinking, since “I believe that God knows what is beautiful [and] what is good in many people who may not have found this path of ecclesial belonging”.

For the record

It’s not all bad news in the Swiss Church, though, despite the lack of new members.

Swissinfo reported this week on the inspiring story of Gerald Chukwudi Ani, the Nigerian son of an animist priest and polygamist who found his calling to the Catholic priesthood and is now ministering at Saint Christopher’s parish in Grancia, a village near Lugano, in the neighbouring southern canton of Ticino.

“In Ticino I was made very welcome”, said Father Gerald.

“So many Nigerians tell me about racism, but I never experienced any of that. I never felt excluded because of the colour of my skin”.

“I think I’ll probably spend the rest of my life here. But if the Bishop lets me, I might go back to Nigeria, which I still think is the best country in the world”, the priest added.

As for his fellow Nigerians who pester him with pleas to bring their children to live with him in Switzerland, Father Gerald had a simple message: “That’s not the answer!”

“This role of the victim really bothers me. I was never one to sit around and wait for other people to do things”, the priest explained.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.