Religion in Austria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Circle frame.svg

Religion in Austria (2016)[1][2][3]

  Roman Catholicism (58.8%)
  Protestantism (3.4%)
  Islam (7%)
  Buddhism (0.2%)
  Judaism (0.1%)
  None or other (24%)

Christianity is the predominant religion in Austria. At the 2001 census, 73.6% of the country's population was Roman Catholic.[4] As of 2016, the number of Catholics has dropped to 58.8% of the population.[3] There is a much smaller group of Evangelicals, totalling about 4.7% of the population in 2001, now 3.4% in 2016.[5] Since 2001, these two historically dominant religious groups in Austria recorded losses in the number of adherents. The Roman Catholic Church reported an absolute drop of 14.8%, the Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed churches of 1.3%. In relative numbers the losses of the smaller Evangelical churches account to 32.5% compared to 21.2% of catholic losses in the same period.

In contrast, due to immigration[6] the number of Muslims in Austria has increased sharply in recent years, with 4.2% of the population calling themselves Muslim in 2001, up to around 5% to 6.2% in 2010,[7][8] and to 7% in 2015-2016.[2] Orthodox churches have also grown to represent up to 6% of the population.[2] Both the communities are represented by recent immigrants, especially from Turkey and the Balkans. There are also minor communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, and other religions in Austria.[9][10]


Main denominations in Austria[11][12][13]
Year Population Roman Catholics Percentage Protestants[14] Percentage
1951 6,933,905 6,170,084 89.0% 429,493 6.2%
1961 7,073,807 6,295,075 89.0% 438,663 6.2%
1971 7,491,526 6,548,316 87.4% 447,070 6.0%
1981 7,555,338 6,372,645 84.3% 423,162 5.6%
1991 7,795,786 6,081,454 78.0% 388,709 5.0%
2001 8,032,926 5,915,421 73.6% 376,150 4.7%
2011 8,408,121 5,403,722 64.3% 319,752 3.8%
2012 8,451,860 5,359,151 63.4% 325,905 3.9%
2013 8,507,786 5,308,515 62.4% 313,352 3.7%
2014 8,584,926 5,265,378 61.4% 309,158 3.6%
2015 8,700,471 5,211,238 59.9% 306,183 3.5%
2016 8,773,686 5,162,622[3] 58.8% 301,729 3.4%

The Protestant Reformation spread from northern Germany to Austria. By the Council of Trent in 1545, almost half of the Austrian population had converted to Lutheranism, while a minority also endorsed Calvinism. Eastern Austria was more affected by this phenomenon than western Austria. After 1545, Austria was recatholicized in the Counter Reformation. The Habsburgs imposed a strict regime to restore the influence of the Roman Catholic Church among Austrians[15][16] and their campaign proved successful. The Habsburgs for a long time viewed themselves as the vanguard of Roman Catholicism, while all the other Christian confessions and religions were repressed.

In 1775, Maria Theresa gave official permission to the Mechistarist Congregation of the Armenian Catholic Church to settle in the Habsburg Empire.

In 1781, in the era of Austrian enlightenment, Emperor Joseph II issued a Patent of Tolerance for Austria that allowed other confessions a limited freedom of worship. Religious freedom was declared a constitutional right in Cisleithania after the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich in 1867 thus paying tribute to the fact that the monarchy was home of numerous religions beside Roman Catholicism such as Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Russian, and Bulgarian Orthodox Christians (Austria neighboured the Ottoman Empire for centuries), both Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants, and Jews. In 1912, after the annexation of Bosnia Hercegovina in 1908, Islam was officially recognised in Austria.[17]

Austria remained largely influenced by Catholicism. After 1918, First Republic Catholic leaders such as Theodor Innitzer and Ignaz Seipel took leading positions within or close to Austria's government and increased their influence during the time of the Austrofascism; Catholicism was treated much like a state religion by Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg.[citation needed] Although Catholic leaders initially welcomed the Germans in 1938 during the Anschluss of Austria into Germany, Austrian Catholicism stopped its support[citation needed] of Nazism later on and former religious public figures became involved with the resistance during the Third Reich. Protestants also welcomed Austria's incorporation into Germany, deeming it a "go back to the land of the Reformation". After the end of World War II in 1945, a stricter secularism was imposed in Austria, and religious influence on politics declined.[citation needed]

The Austrian Jewish community of 1938—Vienna alone counted more than 200,000—was reduced to around 4,500 during the Second World War, with about 65,000 Jewish Austrians killed in the Holocaust and 130,000 emigrating.[18] The large majority of the current Jewish population are post-war immigrants, particularly from eastern Europe and central Asia (including Bukharan Jews).[19] Buddhism was legally recognised as a religion in Austria in 1983.[20]

Austria was greatly affected by the Protestant Reformation, to a point where a significant part of the population became Protestant. Lutheranism was the most successful Protestant confession; that was the case among other German-speaking populations across the Holy Roman Empire and Austria was indeed one of them. Calvinism did not receive that much support. The prominent position of the Habsburgs in the Counter-Reformation, however, saw Protestantism all but wiped out beginning in 1545, restoring Roman Catholicism as the dominant religion once more.

The significant Jewish population (around 200,000 in 1938), mainly residing in Vienna, was reduced to just a couple of thousand through mass emigration in 1938 (more than 2/3 of the Jewish population emigrated from 1938 until 1941), and the following Holocaust during the Nazi period. Immigration in more recent years, primarily from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, has led to an increased number of Muslims and Serbian Orthodox Christians.[10] As in other European countries, there has been a growth of Pagan movements in Austria in recent years.

In 1910, 93,7% of the Austrian population was Roman Catholic, 3,1%% was Protestant, 2,9% was Jewish, 0,3% was placed in other religious categories.[21]

Changes in church adherence and attendance[edit]

Since the second half of the 20th century, the number of churchgoers and people identifying as Catholics and Protestants has dropped (cf. tables).

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll,[22] based on a limited sample:

  • 44% of Austrian citizens responded "they believe there is a God".
  • 38% answered "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".
  • 12% answered "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".


Letzehof Buddhist Monastery at Feldkirch, in Vorarlberg.
St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.
The Lutheran Christuskirche (Church of Christ) in Salzburg.
A mosque in Telfs.
The Temple of Apollo at Hundstalsee, built by local artists in honour of the Greek god Apollo.


Main article: Buddhism in Austria

Buddhism is a legally recognized religion in Austria and it is followed by thousands of people. Although still small in absolute numbers (10,402 at the 2001 census), Buddhism enjoys widespread acceptance in Austria. A majority of Buddhists in the country are Austrian nationals (some of them naturalized after immigration from Asia, predominantly from China and Vietnam), while a considerable number of them are foreign nationals.

As in most European countries, different branches and schools of Buddhism are represented by groups of varying sizes. Vienna not only has the largest number of foreign residents, but is also the place with the longest tradition of Buddhism in the country. Most of Austria's Buddhist temples and centres of practice can be found there; some with a specific Chinese, Vietnamese, Tibetan or Japanese appearance. The latest development has been the establishment of a "Buddhist cemetery" around a stupa-like building for funeral ceremonies at the Vienna Central Cemetery.


Roman Catholicism[edit]

Roman Catholicism is the largest religion in Austria, representing 60% of the population as of 2015 (cf. table). The Catholic Church's governing body in Austria is the Austrian Conference of Catholic Bishops, made up of the hierarchy of the two archbishops (Wien, Salzburg), the bishops and the abbot of territorial abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau. Nevertheless, each bishop is independent in his own diocese, answerable only to the Pope. The current president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops is Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Schönborn belongs to the Central European noble family of Schönborn. Although Austria has no primate, the archbishop of Salzburg is titled Primus Germaniae (Primate of Germany).

Main article: Call to Disobedience

The organization Call to Disobedience (Aufruf zum Ungehorsam in German) is an Austrian movement mainly composed of dissident Catholic priests which started in 2006. The movement claims the support of the majority of Austrian Catholic priests and favors ordination of women, married and non-celibate priesthood, allowing Holy Communion to remarried divorcees and non-Catholics in contrast to teachings of the Catholic Magisterium.

Orthodox Christianity[edit]

Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches grew over the last decades due to the coming of South Slavic immigrants from the Balkans to Austria. The largest group of Eastern Orthodox in Austria are Serbs. The churches have about 500.000 members or 6% of the total population.[2]


The Protestant Reformation spread from northern Germany to Austria. By the Council of Trent in 1545, almost half of the Austrian population had converted to Lutheranism, while a much smaller minority also endorsed Calvinism. Eastern Austria was more affected by this phenomenon than western Austria. After 1545, Austria was recatholicized in the Counter Reformation. The Habsburgs imposed a strict regime to restore the influence of the Roman Catholic Church among Austrians[23][24] and their campaign proved successful; the Habsburgs for a long time viewed themselves as the vanguard of Roman Catholicism, while all the other Christian confessions and religions were repressed.

Protestantism reached a peak percentage of 6,2% by 1951 for the first time in Austrian history since the success of the Counter-Reformation. Currently, it claims around 3,5% of the population. Austrian Protestants are overwhelmingly Lutheran (3,4%), with a small Reformed community (0,1%). New arriving Protestant churches are growing in membership, especially Evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals.


The Lutheran Evangelische Kirche Augsburgischen Bekenntnisses has about 300.000 (3.4%) members.[5]


The Reformed Church in Austria, a Calvinist body, has roughly 13,590 members.


Main article: Islam in Austria

Due to immigration, especially from the Balkans and Turkey, the number of Muslims in Austria has grown exponentially over the latest decades, with Muslims accounting for ~7% of the total population as of 2010, up from 4.2% in 2001.[8][2]


Main article: Hinduism in Austria

Hinduism is a minority religion in Austria, and according to the 2001 census, it was the religion of 3629 people. Since 1998, the 'Hindu Community in Austria' (HRÖ), the official representative of Hindus in Austria, has been able to call itself an 'Official registered confessional community', yet does not enjoy full legal recognition from the state.[25][self-published source?]


Austria has seen a growth of Pagan movements in recent years, especially Druidic (Druidentum), but also Germanic Heathen (Heidentum), Wiccan and Witchcraft (Hexentum) groups. As of 2010 Austrian motorway authorities have been hiring Druids for geomantic works intended to reduce the number of accidents on the worst stretches of Austrian speedways.[26][27]

Celtic Neopaganism and Neo-Druids are particularly popular in Austria, by virtue of Austria being the location of the proto-Celtic Hallstatt culture. The Keltendorf in Diex, Kärnten combines archaeological reconstruction with "European geomancy". The Europäische Keltische Gemeinschaft has been active since 1998.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kirchenaustritte gingen 2012 um elf Prozent zurück" [Leaving church increased by eleven percent in 2012]. (in German). 8 January 2013. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e WZ-Recherche 2016. Published in article: "Staat und Religion". Wiener Zeitung, January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Austrian Catholic Church Statistics 2016
  4. ^ "Religion in Austria on CIA World Factbook". Retrieved December 13, 2006. 
  5. ^ a b "Zahlen und Fakten" [Numbers and Facts]. Evangelical Church in Austria. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Muslime in Österreich
  7. ^ "How many Muslims live in Austria?". 9 February 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Mathias Vogl; Alexander Janda, eds. (2010). "Islam in Österreich" [Islam in Austria] (PDF). Österreichischer Integrationsfonds (in German). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Religion in Austria on CIA World Factbook". Retrieved April 21, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "Religion in Austria on Sacred Destinations". Archived from the original on 2006-05-23. Retrieved April 21, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Bevölkerung nach dem Religionsbekenntnis und Bundesländern 1951 bis 2001" [Population by religious denomination and Federal State from 1951 to 2001] (PDF) (in German). Statistical Office of Austria. 1 June 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  12. ^ "Katholische Kirche Österreich: Statistik" [Catholic Church Austria: Statistics] (in German). Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  13. ^ "Statistical Data 2001–2016" (in German). 12 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  14. ^ Only Evangelical Lutherans & Evangelical Reformed
  15. ^ Lonnie Johnson 28
  16. ^ Brook-Shepherd 16
  17. ^ "Imperial Gazette −1912". IGGIO Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Osterreich. 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Expulsion, Deportation and Murder – History of the Jews in Vienna Vienna Webservice
  19. ^ Bukharian Jews find homes on Long Island, Bukharian Reviews, 16 September 2004
  20. ^ "Religionsbekenntnis". AEIOU. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  21. ^ Grundriss der Statistik. II. Gesellschaftsstatistik by Wilhelm Winkler, p. 36
  22. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 73.1: Biotechnology Report" (PDF). European Commission. October 2010. p. 383. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2010. 
  23. ^ Lonnie Johnson 28
  24. ^ Brook-Shepherd 16
  25. ^ "HRÖ - Our History". Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Druids cut death toll with divine intervention. The Telegraph.
  27. ^ Motorway druids tackle road accidents. Austrian Times.

Further reading[edit]

  • Reingrabner, Gustav (1999), "Austria", in Fahlbusch, Erwin, Encyclopedia of Christianity, 1, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, pp. 168–172, ISBN 0802824137 

External links[edit]