A record number of Austrians left the Catholic Church in 2009, disgruntled by the Vatican's controversial decision to readmit a bishop who questioned the Holocaust, the Earth Times website reports. Last year, some 53,200 people disengaged from the country's biggest religious grouping.
The wave of exits started after the Vatican readmitted four ultraconservative bishops early in 2009, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who is known for his revisionist views on the Holocaust.
A significant portion of Austrian Catholics view themselves as more liberal than the Vatican, opposing Rome's views on abortion, homosexuality, or the ban on married priests.
The number of Catholics in Austria has sunk to around 66 percent, from 89 percent in 1961, according to government statistics.