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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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Italy. Secularization, Abstract Model vs. Reality (Giuseppe Casuscelli)


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Secularization, Abstract Model vs. Reality


Università degli Studi di Milano

Laicity is the supreme constitutional principle of the Italian Republic. The Constitution is inspired by “secular” values such as equality before the law without religious distinction, equal religious liberty for all confessions, Church-State separation, the organisation of bilateral relations between the different denominations, and the prohibition of discrimination between worship and religious associations. The Constitution also recognises the specific contribution of the religious factor and encourages its realisation, because it contributes to the spiritual progress of the country and to the development of individuals’ personalities. Nonetheless, experience shows that the constitutional project has not yet been fully realised due to a combination of juridical, historical, social and political factors.

Since the 1970s, a series of reforms have profoundly transformed the country, such as the introduction of divorce (1970), the reform of family law (1975) and the decriminalization of abortion (1978). In spite of these measures, Italy continues to be regarded as a majority catholic country. The past twenty years, the political establishment has continued to maintain close relations with the Church, which it considers, mainly in an instrumental way, as an integrative part of collective identity. As a consequence, and even if catholic religion is no longer the religion of “the greater majority of the Italian people”, successive governments and public institutions have not modified the privileged position of the Church’s institutions, its...

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