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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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Croatia. The Role of Religion in a Predominantly Catholic Country (Siniša Zrinščak)


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The Role of Religion in a Predominantly Catholic Country


University of Zagreb

Croatia is a predominantly Catholic country in which religion is significantly present in private life as well as in the public sphere, where its role has been subject to debate. According to 2011 Census data, 86.28% of the population is Catholic, 4.44% Orthodox, 1.47% Muslim, 0.34% Protestant, 0.43% member of other religious denominations, and 7.03% non-religious, atheist, “not declared”, agnostic, sceptic, or “unknown”.

A comparison with 2001 Census data reveals almost no changes, while a comparison with 1991 Census data shows that major shifts in the confessional structure have taken place, i.e., an increase of the number of Catholics and a decrease of the number of Orthodox, mainly as a result of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and the war for Croatian independence. Thus the share of Catholics has risen from 76.5% in 1991 to 87.97% in 2001, while the share of Orthodox has dropped from 11.1% in 1991 to 4.42% in 2011. There has also been a small but significant rise in the share of non-believers, “not declared”, agnostics and “unknown”: from 3.9% in 1991 to 7.03% in 2011.1

Data gathered through the 2008 European Values Survey shows that the number of people belonging to religious communities might not be as high as Census data suggests, even though 84.2% still declared that they belong to a...

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