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Pratiques et événements religieux

Inhabitants of Italy (citizens and non-citizens) belonging to non-Catholic communities are between 4.350.000 and 6.450.000. Among these believers are Muslims (about 1.860.000), Orthodox Christians (1.685.000), Protestants (658.377), Buddhists (256.000), Hindus (177.792), and Jews (42.700). It means that the majority of the population (more than 70%) still identify themselves as affiliated to the Catholic Church. This bound implies different interpretations, diverse meanings, and unique practices. As such, the people’s way of being Catholic is reflected into one of the distinctive characteristics of current Italian religious pluralism, which inter alia underlines two trends : one outside the Catholic world, the other within this world.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a decrease in the number of Catholics who are not always active in religious practices. On the other hand, there has been an increase in the number of those who declare themselves Catholic more as a result of the culture of origin than for religious or spiritual reasons. This indicates that in Italy there is a flexible relationship between many people and religion, which is a typical feature of those who value the sense of belonging to the Catholic community for some of its aspects, while interpreting others in a very personal way. But it also shows that the Italian Catholic world is internally differentiated, with many different ways of understanding and viewing this common religious belonging. Despite uncertain and ambivalent convictions, the majority of the population prefers in any case to declare themselves as ‘Catholic’ rather than ‘without religion’. And this explains the limited number of atheists or agnostics. Persons who have no religious affiliation and even the ‘nones groups’ (the without religion communities) are constantly increasing in many European Countries. On the contrary, in Italy the corresponding number stands at around 9%, and over the last decades it has shown no particular growth trend.
This also clarifies the low attendance to ordinary religious practises (Sunday worship service, private and corporate prayer, study and reading of the Scriptures, etc.), while there is a widespread tendency to focus attention on the great religious events involving the Catholic Church (the World Youth Days, the proclamations of saints, the Pope’s visits to local dioceses, the commemoration of charismatic religious figures). Finally, it should be noted that the vast majority of Italians participate in religious rites of passage (baptisms, church weddings, religious funerals), often seen as solemn celebrations of the most important moments in a person’s life as well as in the life of the local and national community. Popular feasts, celebrations marking important stages of one’s own existence, and religious events still attract many people. Conversely, an important part of the Catholic world normally deserts parishes in everyday life. From here a paradox of Italian religious affiliation stems : it is still able to fill the public squares, whereas the churches remain substantially empty.
As regards the relations between religions and the mass media, the Law on radio and television 31 July 2005, n. 177, amended by 44/2010 Act (in particular, Article 3) includes among the principles of the radio and television system the pluralism of the media and the openness to different trends, including religious ones. Audiovisual and radio mass media are a powerful means of propaganda also in the religious field : Italian law protects religious pluralism.

EURISPES, 27° Rapporto Italia, Istituto di Studi Politici Economici e Sociali, Roma 2016.
EURISPES, Italia : superare la sindrome del Palio, passare dal contro al per e trasformare la nostra potenza in energia.

D 16 février 2021    AFrancesco Alicino ASimona Attollino

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