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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates

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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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Lithuania. Catholic Church and Public Debates (Milda Ališauskienë)

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Lithuania

Catholic Church and Public Debates

Milda ALIŠAUSKIENË

Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas

In this article I argue, based on observations as well as on recent sociological analysis, that in contemporary Lithuania religion is becoming more public, but at the same time more individual and private. Generally, in the Lithuanian public sphere religion means Roman Catholicism. The reasons for this are manifold. Firstly, demographical data (2001 and 2011 population censuses) shows that more than 77% of the population consider themselves Catholic.1 Furthermore, the Catholic Church can be considered a “national Church”2 in that it supported the nation’s struggle for independence from the Soviet Union, thus gaining a special status within society.

This situation was reinforced when in 2000 three international agreements between the Republic of Lithuania and the Holy See were signed.3 The Roman Catholic Church’s privileged position in society distinguishes Lithuania from other Baltic States, and approximates it to its southern neighbor Poland, where the majority of the population is Catholic – even if the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania ← 113 | 114 → prescribes that there is to be no State religion.4 Another common feature of both Lithuanian and Polish society is ethnic homogeneity.

Together with Latvia and Poland, Lithuania has implemented a so-called differential system regarding religious communities, whereby “historical” or “traditional” religious communities are considered more privileged than others. One of the main privileges from which traditional religious communities benefit...

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