Nelly Ippolito Macrina - Florence 7 april 2017


Video and text of the speech by Dr. Nelly Ippolito Macrina, held on 7 april 2017 at the presentation of the Acts of the 1st Conference by FOB, Laicity and Freedom of Belief in Italy.


by Nelly Ippolito Macrina

Good afternoon and thanks to FOB for this opportunity of dialogue.

Opportunity of dialogue that I would open with a sentence of Massimo Introvigne appeared on a renown Roman newspaper: “Today the request for spirituality has restarted with a burst after having reached historic lows”. It was year 1996 and with this quote I began my brief speech to the Superior School of the Ministry of Interior Administration, when I was the Director of the Religious Affairs Department for the Non-Catholic faiths.

At that time I wrote that the proliferation of new religious realities, which has involved Western societies as well as ours – often and wrongly considered indifferent to the urges of the spirit and the quest for the sacred – proposes again, in terms of renewed topicality, the delicate issue of religious freedom as it fits in the broader framework of the secular State.

Today, the Acts of FOB cast these issues in today events, develop them and investigate them rigorously.

In her speech, Raffaella Di Marzio, among other things, draws the attention on the quantitative data of the religious realities in our country in constant growth, referring to the updated census done by CESNUR of Introvigne and Zoccatelli.

And exploring the site of CESNUR, we find that 3.2% of Italian citizens belong to religious minorities, and that in the last edition of the Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy today are featured 859 religious and spiritual minorities present in an organized form in our country, while in the first edition of the same Encyclopedia, published in 2001, and to which I cooperated, these minorities were 201 less.

But let’s go back to Acts of FOB.

Silvio Calzolari, in his presentation full of thoughtful meanings, puts the emphasis on the expression "religious freedom" saying that this is not, as generally believed, a perfect synonym of "freedom of religion".

The first, essentially expresses an aspiration, a right from an ethics meaning, the other, more properly, a legal right that has been slowly forming up.

That of religious freedom is in fact a right that current society has always considered uncontroversial, forgetting the recent past in which our State was one that gave no room to religious minorities.

On the eve of the unification of the Kingdom of Italy, the Albertine Statute of 4 March 1848, in fact, declared the Catholic religion as the only State religion, while minorities enjoyed the mere tolerance.

The unification of Italy and especially the storming of Rome led to the rupture of the relations with the Catholic Church: proof of this is the subversive legislation of the ecclesiastic axis - laws of 1866, 1867 and 1873 – with which several religious orders were abolished and their assets confiscated.

The advent of Fascism recorded a profound change that led to the restoration of a confessional state in Italy. The new ecclesiastical policy culminated in the signing of the Lateran Pacts with the Catholic Church on 11 February 1929 (with which the principle of the Catholic religion as State religion was reaffirmed) and in the issuing of the Law of 24 June 1929, # 1159 and the implementing regulation approved by Royal Decree on 28 February 1930, n. 289, concerning the relations between the State and the other religious confessions. And this legislation is still in force, despite the attempts made to its overcoming. But we will discuss about this later on.

The existing constitutional system has however ruled out any possible discrimination between the different religious confessions stating that "they are equally free before the law" (Art. 8, Paragraph I of the Constitution).

A distinction between the Catholic Church and the other denominations, however, is operated by the Constitution: the State and the Catholic Church are in fact considered "independent and sovereign" and their relations are regulated by the Lateran Pacts (art. 7 of the Constitution), whereas the other religious denominations are entitled to organize themselves according to their own statutes, provided these do not conflict with the Italian legal system (art. 8, paragraph 2 of the Constitution.), and it is expected that their relations with the State are regulated by law on the basis of agreements with their respective representatives (art. 8, paragraph 3 of the Constitution).

We know that the application of the Constitution here has been slow. I would note that it will take until 1984 to see the first implementation of the law on the treaties, the one with the Waldensian Table and, since then, seven other religious denominations have undersigned an agreement through the implementation of the law on treaties.

For all the others, instead, the legislation on “allowed faiths” continues to be applied: those of 1929 and 1930, which I earlier mentioned.

The need for a systematic law on religious freedom that would replace the one on allowed faiths is remote history.

In the acts of FOB, Dora Bognandi devotes an ample space to the bumpy path of this law, path that so far has not come to an end. I emphasize "so far" because, as professor Berzano already mentioned before, it is of this week the news of a new proposal to provide Italy with a law on religious freedom. The text of the proposal is not yet known.

Thank you for your attention.