My experience in Italy (Part 3): Christianity in Italy

If you’ve ever been to Italy, there’s no doubt that you’ve encountered a very large Catholic Christian presence in the country. You can never be too far away from any religious reference, you can find a Jesus, Virgin Mary, saint, or pope almost anywhere in Italy, and you’d almost think everyone was Catholic (in fact some statistics say that Roman Catholicism is followed by 90% of the population in Italy; it’s usually around 80% actually). On the coach trip from Naples it’s usually not too long before I find a church, or a Jesus or Mary.

During my trip, I have been wondering how the Italian culture of festive indulgence and celebration can coexist with Christianity, a religion that is about self-denial, abstinence from personal pleasures and desires, and submitting your soul to both the god Jehovah and his son Jesus (and keep in mind, we’re dealing with Roman Catholicism, a faith that additionally considers the pope extremely important if not infallible and values the hierarchy of clergy which he is the top part of, and is known for venerating the dead “saints”). Not to mention, this is the same place where you can be uncomfortably lax about children’s innocence on the beach (but not young adults and adolescents mind you). As the week went by as I was thinking about it, and I think there is an explanation for it.

In my experience with a Catholic family (or more or less the Catholic side of my family), Catholic tradition seems to allow for festivity and indulgence in the form of family traditions, though this indulgence is very usually food and fiesta related. Catholicism also has a number of feasts and festivals for saints, and events of religious significance, and it is also intermingled with Italian family traditions. This would make it easy to embrace the faith and pass it down the generations, goes well with blind acceptance of the Christian version of the truth. Although, perhaps it’s more to do with the centuries of Catholic influence and indoctrination eventually settling in to the point that it’s almost natural (but it’s not).

It’s worth noting, though, that freedom of religion and separation of church and state are actually guaranteed under Italian law, so much of the Catholic presence has less to do with the state and a lot more to family and tradition.  The fact that many families hold on to the faith, go with it, and pass on the faith down the lines pretty much means that the faith and its influence is preserved by the masses themselves through the belief of entire families and in mass obedience to tradition. Keep in mind Italian culture is big on family and traditions, and so Catholic Christianity would have a high presence because of family and tradition and the importance they hold.

This concludes my series of posts about my experience in Italy. I must end by mentioning that half of my experience in Italy was actually good, I just don’t really feel like I would go back there after realizing I do not really belong there.

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