People wait in line outside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist before the opening of the public exposition of the Shroud of Turin in Turin, Italy, April 19. The shroud, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus, is on display from April 19 through June 24, 2015. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Only 50 per cent of Italians call themselves Catholic

By  Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service
  • March 29, 2016

ROME - Italy may be the spiritual home of 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church around the world, but a new poll shows only 50 per cent of Italians consider themselves Catholic.

The poll, published in the liberal daily L’Unita on March 29, challenges long-held perceptions that Italy is a ”Catholic” country, despite the popularity of Pope Francis and the historic role of the Vatican City State in the heart of Rome.

In addition to the 50 per cent who consider themselves Catholic, the poll, conducted in Italy by research firm SWG, found that 13 per cent defined themselves as “Christian.”

Of the 1,500 respondents, 4 per cent said they were Orthodox or Protestant, 2 per cent were Buddhist, 1 per cent were Jewish and 1 per cent were Muslim.

But a surprising 20 per cent said they were atheist, while 8 per cent said they were religiously unaffiliated.

Enzo Risso, research director at SWG, said Italy has witnessed a weakening of religious faith over the past 20 years and a growing trend toward personal spiritual inquiry.

Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed said they did not feel part of a religious community. Of those, some said they believed in destiny, horoscopes, reincarnation, Tarot readings and miracle cures.

Monsignor Bruno Forte, archbishop of Chieti-Vasto near the Adriatic Sea, and an adviser to the pope, said the data was “worrying but not surprising.”

“It is not that those who do not believe in God don’t believe in anything; on the contrary, they risk believing in everything, as a ‘surrogate’ to faith, ” Forte, a prominent theologian, told news agency AdnKronos on Tuesday.

In July 2014, Francis appointed Forte as a consultant to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican group that oversees Catholic religious orders. In October he played a key role in the Synod on the Family.

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