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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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Portugal. A Lingering Catholicism (Henrique Machado-Jorge)


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A Lingering Catholicism


Lusofona University of Humanities and Technologies, Lisbon

Though the quantity of studies on religious/non-religious tendencies in today’s Portugal is not overly abundant outside the Catholic remit, available are official and other reliable statistical data, and a number of well-structured analyses thereof, providing insights into the religious phenomenon in this country. Notwithstanding, the main issue is whether the more recent, few-decades-spanning information is by itself sufficient for supporting medium to long-term tendencies anticipation in this domain. This text takes the view that the Portuguese national historical context may to a good extent explain the degree of observed trend stability as regards religions-secularism in the country. The Portuguese law of religious freedom dates just from 2001. Signs are that only now an effective multiplication of creeds is underway, whose future impact cannot yet be soundly discerned.

Three first order markers emerge in the Portuguese past century history: 1910, 1928, and 1974; behind them loom the two World Wars and the Portuguese colonial wars of the 1960s (Angola; Guinea-Bissau; Mozambique). On October 5, 1910 the monarchy was overthrown and a republican regime (1st Republic) was inaugurated. The sort of relationship reset by the new political power in respect of the Catholic Church may be said to have been dominantly adversarial. Separation between State and Church was established; a significant part of the then vast Church property was confiscated; and various legislative diplomas were...

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