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Religions and social welfare

Religions and social welfare

The history of social welfare in Croatia goes back to the 19th century when Croatia was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and when the first social insurance laws were passed. The full development for the welfare state occurred after the WWII, during the communist period. Therefore, the welfare sector was developed as strictly secular and detached from any religious influence. The Catholic Church, as the dominant religion, had some charity activities, which were partly tolerated by the state, but the extent of such activities was limited.

Today, the Catholic charitable work is free and recognized by the state, though the welfare system remains mainly public. At the diocese levels, Caritas is organized as a non-profit institution which offers many services, such as homes for the handicapped, family counselling, shelters for the homeless or victims of domestic violence, soup kitchens, etc. Caritas works in cooperation with public authorities, is partly funded by the state, and employs professionals. The recipients are all citizens, not only the Catholics. The size and importance of Caritas varies among dioceses. At the parish level, Caritas exists also, but only as a volunteers group. As such, parish Caritas organizations do not have separate legal authority, and are mainly preoccupied with traditional charitable activities, such as collections of food or clothes for poor people, visiting infirms, etc.

Charitable work of other religious communities is in general very limited and mainly directed towards the members of the respective religions.

Sociological research shows that people welcome the charitable work and even expect that Churches should be more involved in welfare and less in other public issues, in particular political ones.

D 26 September 2016    ASiniša Zrinščak

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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