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Despite Francis, Italians less religious and less observant. PDF Print E-mail
Mar 30, 2014 at 10:18 PM

Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando after celebrating a civil marriage
Despite the highly favorable attention that Pope Francis 1 has been getting here in Italy (as well as elsewhere), there can be no doubt that this Roman Catholic country increasingly has been becoming less religious and less observant. This is not a new phenomenon, indeed the phenomenon is a worldwide one where Catholics are concerned, but the trend is increasing, as a recent study conducted by the “Critica liberale” magazine in Bologna indicates and it is questionable whether the popularity of the new pontiff can make any kind of difference..

The study compared the frequency of a series of Roman Catholic rites between 1991 and 2009 and found the following:

Baptisms: down 19 percent to 70.3%

First communions: down from 9% to 7%

Religious marriages: down from 257,556 in 1991 to 124,443.

Religious/civil marriages (a combined form of rite permitted here) down from 312,061 to 204,830, while purely civil marriages have risen from 54,546 in 1991 to 80,387 in 2009.

Ordained priests: down from 57,274 in 1991 to 48,333 in 2011


On the other hand, 89.3% of Italian children still opt (or rather their parents do) to attend religion classes in Italian public schools. In 1993 that figure was 93.9 %. And 65% of Italians (although frankly I don’t believe this) claim they go to mass every Sunday or at least twice a month.


 Another study conducted by the Spanish-language Univision American television station

Attendance at religious education classes in Italian public schools from in 1993, 89,30% in 2011

An earlier study published by La Repubblica newspaper on February 7 looking at religious beliefs among Catholics in 12 countries found that millions of Catholics are moving away from Roman Catholic instruction.


The study said 79 % of Italians Catholics were opposed to the current church doctrine (although this may change under Francis) that divorced people should not receive communion. About, 57 % believe priests should be able to marry and 59% say that women should be able to be priests. A whopping 84% is in favor of contraceptives, and if only15% of Italians declare themselves to be unequivocally pro-choice when it comes to abortion, another 68% say abortion should be possible in certain cases. (Indeed, since 1978, Italy has had one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe although its full application is often thwarted by the nigh number of doctors who declare themselves to be conscientious objectors. In contrast, only 30 % of Italians believe same sex marriage should be allowed, and in fact it is illegal here.


Another sign of how the Italian family is changing, in contrast to the hopes and wishes of the Church, is the soaring number of legal separations and divorces. Statistics released by Istat, the Italian National Statistics Agency last year showed that separations had increased 23.4 and divorces by 48.2 between 2000 and 2011. At this year’s conference of Italian divorce lawyers, new statistics emerged confirming this trend. Research released showed that in the Italian north, 383 out of every 1000 marriages end in one form of separation while in the more conservative south, only 180 out of every 1000 end in a split.  In 30% of the separations, the cause was infidelities discovered.


The total number of marriages has also declined with many more couples living together and having children without actually tying the knot. In 1972, there were 420,000 marriages whereas by 2012 that number had shrunk to only 208,000. Another novelty? Now older Italian couples are breaking up as well. The lawyers noted that today one fifth of the divorces filed for concern people over 65.




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