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Concerning the civil status of religious ministers, there is a substantial difference between the provisions stated by the legislation coming from the bilateral state-religions agreements (Articles 7.3 and 8.3 of the 1948 Constitution) and the provision established by the 1159/1929 act on “admitted religion”. The bilateral legislation makes possible an automatic recognition of religious ministers, to whom some important rights and civil benefits are granted simply because they exercise specific functions within a given denomination and in accordance with a corresponding religious law. This is evident when considering the legislation ratifying the agreement between the State and the Catholic Church, i.e. the 1985 law (No. 121), which ratified the 1984 agreement of Villa Madama between the Holy See and the Italian Republic and modified almost entirely the 1929 Lateran Pacts. This agreement states that the ‘appointments to ecclesiastical offices are wholly made by ecclesiastical authorities’. This means that, in order to be recognised as religious ministers in the Italian legal system, those authorities must only ‘inform the competent civil authorities of the appointments of archbishops and diocesan bishops, of Coadjutors, of Abbots and Prelates with territorial jurisdiction, including parish and other official appointments to ecclesiastical offices relevant to state administration’. But that substantial difference is also affirmed through the bilateral legislation based on intese (Article 8.3 of the Constitution). This legislation, in respect to religious ministers, affirms very similar provisions to those stated in the 1984 Villa Madama agreement between the State and the Holy See. That is the case for Lutheran pastors, Evangelical ministers, Orthodox priests, Jewish clergies and Buddhist masters ; called ministri di culto in the language of the intese, which can be translated into ‘ministers of religion’ or ‘religious ministers’. These are clear demonstrations of the fact that in both the 1984 Agreement (between the State and the Catholic Church) and the common legislation based on intese the principal reference for recognising the civil status of a religious minister is the law of a denomination, rather than the State’s law : in this matter, the latter (state’s law) simply refers to the former (religious law). In practice, once a person has been defined and recognised as minister by and within a religious community, this same person is a religious minister for the State too. In brief, so far as the status of religious minister is concerned, the rules that govern the internal activities of religious groups have almost automatically civil effects within the Italian legal system.
On the contrary, under the 1929 law (No. 1159), a religious minister can have a civil status only after the public authority has formally recognised and appointed him. Moreover, the religious minister must themselves submit a specific request to the Italian Minister of the Interior, who has to check that the claimant meets the criteria established by Article 3 of the 1929/1159 law and by the relative royal decree of 1930 (No. 289). In order to be recognised as religious minister by the State, the request must in particular contain : 1. the religious act through which the minister was appointed by the religious authorities ; 2. the documents showing that the designation was made in accordance with the religious rules of the denomination concerned ; 3. the documents affirming that the religious minister is an Italian citizen, especially when they are due to celebrate religious marriages with civil effects. In addition, the claimant must demonstrate their ability to speak Italian, and be prepared to give all further and necessary information for a correct and complete ‘legal enquiry’. Without the governmental approbation, the State cannot recognise civil effects to some religious act, such as religious marriages, made by ministers of a given denomination.
It is worth underscoring that there is in Italy a law concerning the social security and pension system of religious leaders (see the 1973 law No. 903, updated by the 1999 law No. 488).

D 15 février 2021    AFrancesco Alicino ASimona Attollino

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