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Catholic faith losing appeal in Italy

The vast majority of Italians say they are Catholics, but the number who regularly attend church or wed at the altar is falling dramatically, according to a report released yesterday.

The poll conducted for the Rome daily La Repubblica came as Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Italy's leading candidate to become the next pope, warned that Christianity faced a crisis in the big cities.

"Children...don't even know how to make the sign of the cross," Tettamanzi said in a lengthy document released as he marked his first anniversary as Cardinal of Italy's financial capital Milan.

"The rich vitality of faith today is seriously under threat... Faith seems just a repetitive reality, tired, drawn out, dull and inward looking," he said.

One month ahead of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul's papacy, the Eurisko poll of 5000 Italians showed that while 87% of people said they were Catholic only 29.3% regularly attended mass.

In 1985, 35.7% of Italians were regular church goers.

The report said religious marriages among Italians fell 10% in 2000-01. Tettamanzi said marriage had lost its religious significance.

"The (wedding) ceremony has become a social custom based on aesthetics: the dress, the presents, the guests, the photos and the meal," he said.

He told priests to refuse people the sacrament if they were not sufficiently devout.


Milan cardinal cautions against postmodern subjectivity (4/3/03)
Archdiocese of Milan | Archbishop
Chiesa Cattolica Italiana
La Repubblica

10 Sep 2003