A recent report based on data from the National Institute of Statistics (Istat) reveals a bleak picture of religious practice in Italy. The decline has been gradual over the years, but the biggest “plunge” was recorded between 2019 and 2020.
During the pandemic, the behavior of many clergy, as well as bishops, took its toll: the closure of churches was a real proclamation. Many more people – 31% – have never set foot in a place of worship in the past year, except for a specific event such as a wedding or funeral.
The study, whose results have been reworked by the religious information portal Settimana News, shows that churches are experiencing a steady decline in attendance at religious rites, which marks a historic change in the relationship between citizens and religion.
Churches are mentioned because there is no breakdown by religion, but as ANSA reports, the data can be extrapolated.
In 20 years, religious practice in Italy has steadily decreased, reaching only half: from 36.4% of the population in 2001 who declared themselves to be “practicing,” to less than 19% last year, therefore less than one person in five.
The biggest “plunge” was recorded between 2019 and 2020, with the 4 point loss of people going to Mass. This is the pandemic year, during which “face-to-face” celebrations were suspended, but church attendance was permitted.
With the end of the pandemic, the situation has not returned to its previous level and, on the contrary, has worsened further. Over the past twenty years, the proportion of those who have “never practiced” has doubled, from 16% in 2001 to 31% in 2022.
The statistical report confirms the trend that has existed for years in the Italian dioceses. According to the latest data from the diocese of Milan, one of the largest in the world, baptisms have fallen from 37,000-38,000 in the 2000s to 20,000 today. Even taking into account the decline in the birth rate, this figure is low.
As for marriages in the diocese, they have gone from 18,000 a year in the 1990s to 4,000 today.
Churches are gradually emptying of all age groups, but the most obvious drop is among young adults (18-24 years old) and teenagers (14-17 years old). While overall religious practice has declined by 50% over the past twenty years, for these age groups the drop is two-thirds.