I was surprised to see this headline on the Austrian Catholic website kath.net today… and even more surprised to see they seemed to mean it seriously.
“A look at the participants in the final round of the European football championship in Switzerland and Austria suggests this,” kath.net writes in a report from Vienna. “In seven of the 16 participating countries, Catholics are clearly in the majority: Poland (95 percent of the population), Spain (92 percent), Italy (90 percent), Portugal (90 percent), Croatia (77 percent), Austria (69 percent ) and France (51 percent). Only one Protestant stronghold confronts them, Sweden. Of the 8.8 million inhabitants of the northern European country, 80 percent are Lutherans.”
There’s no hint of analysis of why this should be relevant, or mention of the personal faith — or lack thereof — of the players on these national teams. This purely statistical view (sports fans love stats, don’t they?) goes on to point out which participating countries have large numbers of both Catholics and Protestants (Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands).
The article notes that only 32 percent of all Czechs call themselves Christians, making the Czech Republic the most “de-churched” participating country, i.e. the country where religion has retreated the most. Even there, though, the Catholics make up the largest group among the believers (26.5 percent of the population). So maybe they still have a chance after all.
No religion story in Europe is complete without a mention of Islam, so the Vienna-datelined article ended up with a comment about Turkey. The Turkish team, by the way, beat Austria’s co-hosts Switzerland 2-1 on Wednesday in Basel and face the “de-churched” Czechs on Sunday in Geneva, aka “the Protestant Rome”.