Until recently, priests have been present at the vast majority of burials and cremations in Denmark — in contrast to weddings, which have seen a far stronger tendency towards secular ceremonies.
But that is now beginning to change, newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reports.
The number of burials or cremations conducted without the presence of a priest, imam, rabbi or other religious authority has increased significantly in the space of a few years, the newspaper writes.
Last year, 8,846 people were given non-religious funerals, or ceremonies ‘without spiritual participation’, according to the categorisation used by national statistics agency Statistics Denmark.
That represents an 84 percent increase compared to 2006, the oldest available data on the area.
The trend is further evidence that the general population in Denmark is becoming less closely connected to the Church of Denmark (Folkekirken), according to Ulla Schmidt, professor in theology at Aarhus University.
“Death has traditionally been the rite of passage in which the church's presence has remained strongest. But now we are beginning to see a decline,” Schmidt, who is leading a research project on death, remembrance and religion in Denmark, said.
“Although the church has, for a long time, been making an effort to increase the number of baptisms and church weddings, the decreasing number of (religious) funerals is a new situation, and one which the Church of Denmark has not yet done anything to address,” the researcher continued.
The trend exists across the country, but is most prominent in Copenhagen, where almost one third of all burials and cremations last year took place without any religious element.
Nationally, non-religious services constituted 16 percent of the 55,262 funerals which took place in 2018. That compares to 9 percent in 2006.