GHANA: Catholic Church in Decline, Bishops Race to Address Dwindling Number of Faithful

By Arnold Neliba

SUNYANI, NOVEMBER 15, 2023 (CISA)-In a Keynote address at the opening of the 2023 plenary assembly in Sunyani, Most Rev Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, has disclosed plans to set up a research department that will help find data-based solutions to the declining number of Catholics in the country.

The President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), while terming the approach as urgent said reliance on the government census done once every 10 years will not help find an immediate solution to the looming crisis.

“In order to take an informed decision to respond to the problem of people leaving the Catholic Church for the other churches, we direct that specific research be conducted at the national and local levels by experts to offer proposals for implementation,” he said in his November 13 address.

The research department according to Archbishop Gyamfi with the guidance of the bishops may be set up at the National Catholic Secretariat and replicated across all archdioceses to enable prompt collection and monitoring of their data on membership and other variables in the Church.

“Reliance on statistics compiled by the state in every ten years does not permit us to rectify any problems that may arise and grow during the period,” he said while inviting bishops at the plenary to give the necessary attention to the idea which will enable interpretation of data and monitoring of fluctuations on a short term basis.

Archbishop Gyamfi also proposed aggressive catechesis that would lead to true conversion of heart and mind. He recommends use in all dioceses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (YouthCat) as the basic handbook for instructions for the reception of the sacraments and instruction at the Sunday liturgy of the Word for the Holy Childhood,” he said further rooting for adequate training of catechists and sufficiently remunerated to enable them to carry out the ministry.

On diocesan and pastoral plans, the President of GCBC suggested alignment of the short, medium and long-term plans towards strengthening and promoting primary evangelization. He says “In the absence of carefully plotted out diocesan plans that feed ultimately into a national vision for the Church, any efforts to halt the decline of Church population to grow the Church would be seriously hampered.”

Youth exodus from the Church is the greatest threat to the Church in Ghana and is due to insufficient spiritual and material investment in the youth, inadequate formation and catechesis, and unfulfilled expectations of Catholic public schools.

Urbanization has also been singled out as the main cause of the declining number of Catholics. The 2021 population and housing census, suggest that when Catholics move from rural areas to urban centres, they fail to sustain their Catholic faith and move to other denominations. These, according to Archbishop Gyamfi are the issues that need to be studied to find a permanent solution to the problem.

Tracking from the 2010 population census, the Catholic population was at 13.1 percent, a drop of 2 percent from the 2000 census.  According to the 2021 census, the Catholic population has dropped to 10 percent. Pentecostal and charismatic Christians are the largest religious groups in Ghana, reaching a share of percentage 31.6. Approximately 20 percent of the country is Muslim.