1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Religion

(Part 18)



The Roman Catholic Church claims the great mass of the Italian population ; but, besides the ordinary Latin rite, several others are recognized in the country. The Armenians of Venice maintain their traditional characteristics. The Albanians of the southern provinces still employ the Greek rite and the Greek language in their public worship, and their priests, like those of the Greek Church, are allowed to marry. And certain peculiarities introduced by St Ambrose distinguish the ritual of Milan from that of the general church. Up to 1871 the island of Sicily was, according to the bull of Urban II., ecclesiastically dependent on the king, and exempt from the canonical power of the pope.

Though the territorial authority of the papal see was abolished in 1870, the fact that Italy, and Rome more particularly, is the seat of the administrative centre of the vast organization of the church is not without significance to the nation. In the same city in which the administrative functions of the body politic are centralized there still exists the court of the spiritual potentate with a total personnel (in 1879) of 1821 souls.

The number of episcopal dioceses in Italy is 265 ; but as it sometimes happens that more than one is subject to the same bishop, the number of these functionaries is somewhat less. Every diocese has full individuality as a corporation, and possesses a cathedral with a chapter of canons, a number of minor benefices, and a seminary. The number of canons before the law of 1867 was 4699. Including the so-called patriarch of Venice, there are thirty-seven metropolitans who have jurisdiction not only over their own immediate dioceses, but also over dioceses administered by suffragan bishops. Their position is indicated in the following table (XXXII.):—

==TABLE ==

There are 24,980 parishes in the kingdom, and the parish priest has a considerable influence in the country districts, though since 1866 he can no longer act as a state official. About 800,000 lire are spent annually by the Fondo pel Culto in augmentation of the parochial stipends. The parishes vary greatly both in size and population, some having as many as 14,000 inhabitants, and others less than 100. The priest in the country has a glebe ox podere which he cultivates like any of the lesser landholders of his district ; and he is thus interested in the state of the markets, the character of the harvest, and the general condition of affairs.

As in every diocese there is a seminary or diocesan school, the number of such institutions exceeds that of the royal, provincial, and communal lyceums (licei) and gymnasiums (ginnasi). In so far as they concern themselves with secular education, they are subject to the supervision of the minister of instruction. At the time of the inspection of 1877-78 they were found to have 17,478 pupils, of whom only 3547 were studying theology.

The only Protestant denomination with a true historical position in Italy is that of the Waldensians, which has taken advantage of the religious liberty of the new kingdom to come down from the mountain fastnesses. Besides the sixteen churches (with 11,958 members in 1879) which it possessed at the time of its recognition by law in the kingdom of Sardinia in 1848, it numbers thirty-nine churches and thirty-two mission stations scattered throughout the country as far south as Sicily ; and it maintains between twenty and thirty elementary schools. The "Free Italian Church," founded in 1870 by twenty-three churches which declared themselves independent of the Waldensian organization, consisted in 1879 of thirty-six churches and thirty-five stations ; and since 1876 it has a theological college in Rome. In a number of the larger cities of Northern and Cen tral Italy there are considerable congregations of the "Free Christian Church," a community or " brotherhood " which believes that stated ministers and church statistics are both un-Christian. The Wesley an Methodist Church, having carried on evangelizing operations in Italy since 1861, has forty-three churches and stations with about 1300 communicants, and in its elementary schools 776 scholars. Of less extent are the more modem attainments of the American Episcopal Methodists, the American Baptists, and the English Baptists. Several orphanages, refuges, and schools of special purpose owe their existence to Protestant benevolence. Compare Giorgio Curcio, "Progamma per una statistica dei culti in Italia," in Annali di Stat., 1880.

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