Most of Italy is comprised of Roman Catholics (the largest religion in the country) – but the Catholic Church is not officially considered the state religion. About 87.8% of Italians are Roman Catholics (according to self-identification), but only about one-third of these people (36.8%) are active members of the religion. Although not all Italians are active members of any religion, most of them do believe in God or at least some form of a spiritual life force. According to a recent Eurobarometer Poll (taken in 2005), about 74% of the Italian population said that they believe in a God, 16% believed that there was some sort of spirit or life force, and only 6% responded to the poll by saying that they do not believe there is any sort of God, spirit, or life force.
Christianity in Italy
The Catholic Church in Italy is a part of the whole “global” Roman Catholic Church – under the official leadership of the Pope. There are two other nations (San Marino and Vatican City) that are included in the Italian-based dioceses – there are a total of 225 dioceses. Italy, even to this day, maintains a fairly rich Catholic culture (for the active members), especially considering the fact that many Catholic saints, martyrs and even popes were of Italian descent. Due to the large number of Roman Catholic followers in the nation – Italy holds the record for the largest amount of Roman Catholic churches per capita. Additionally, Italy is also home to the largest number of cardinals in the world.
Although the main variety of Christianity in Italy is Roman Catholicism, there are several related minorities of Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and other Christian minority churches. Looking back at the 20th century, Italy saw a drastic rise in several varieties of Protestant churches. Since the 1980’s, continued migration of people from Africa has led to an increase in the amount of Baptist, Anglican and Evangelical communities in Italy. On the other end, migration of individuals from Eastern Europe is responsible for the establishment of fairly large Eastern Orthodox communities.
Although the most dominant religion in Italy may be Roman Catholicism, the longest-established religion in Italy has been Judaism due to the presence of Jews in Ancient Rome prior to the birth of Christ. Additionally, Italy accepted many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany during the Holocaust – further increasing the influence of Judaism in the country. Unfortunately, when the Italian Social Republic was created, about 15% of Italian Jews were killed – despite the efforts of the Fascist government to prevent deportation of Jews to Nazi camps. Today, it is estimated that 45,000 Jews still preside in Italy.
With increased migration to the country, Italy became a multicultural nation. In 2009, an estimated 1 million Muslims lived in Italy but it is estimated that somewhere between 0.8 million and 1.5 million reside there today – not all of them legal citizens. There are also 70,000 Sikhs and Hindus living in Italy and approximately 50,000 Buddhists. Of course Italy does not restrict you to one religion – you are free to practice any religion you like.