Barely half the French population describe themselves as Catholic, according to a poll released yesterday, sparking a leading religious publication to declare France "no longer a Catholic country".
A poll published in Le Monde des Religions yesterday showed the number of self-declared French Catholics had dropped from 80 per cent in the early 1990s and 67 per cent in 2000 and to 51 per cent today.
The number of atheists has risen sharply to 31 per cent from 23 per cent in 1994.
"In its institutions, but also in its mentalities, France is no longer a Catholic country," wrote Frederic Lenoir, editor in chief of Le Monde des Religions.
Yesterday's poll showed that only 10 per cent go to church regularly — mainly to Sunday mass or christenings. Of the 51 per cent who still call themselves Catholics, only half said they believed in God. Many said they were Catholics because it was a family tradition.
On the other hand, more Austrians are staying Catholic:
Significantly fewer Austrians left the Roman Catholic Church in 2006, the Archdiocese of Vienna said Tuesday -- a sign that a mass exodus of believers triggered by priest sex scandals and the nation's unpopular church tax is slowing.
Across the overwhelmingly Catholic country, 36,645 people formally withdrew from the church last year, a nearly 18 percent drop from the 44,609 believers who canceled their memberships in 2005, the archdiocese said.
The exodus peaked in 2004, when 45,000 Austrians left a church bedeviled by scandal and a chronic shortage of priests.
Many cited disgust over the discovery of up to 40,000 lurid images at a seminary in St. Poelten, 50 miles west of Vienna, including child porn and photos of young candidates for the priesthood fondling each other and their older religious instructors.
Other dropouts expressed discontent with a church tax collected by the government for the church -- a levy that averages more than $300 a year. Catholics wishing to avoid paying it must formally renounce their affiliation to their church.