The Roman Catholic Church continues to show signs of crisis. Studies suggest that, at most, 15% (but as low as 3%) of Italians faithfully practice Catholicism. The north is largely secular; in the south, a mix of religious Catholicism and folk superstition prevails. Yet at the same time, the Catholic Church is active and outgoing – it embodies Italian identity amid a fragmented political system and high immigration, as well as taking a strong stand against the onset of secularization and greater relativism. However, the numbers of attending faithful and of new priests are rapidly declining. Hoped-for renewal from the Catholic charismatic movement, while welcomed, is limited. Pray for the millions of Italians either locked in dead traditions or disillusioned by organized religion altogether; may they discover the living Christ.
Indifference to the gospel has typified Italy for ages. Secular materialism ensnares many. Satanism is growing in various areas, Turin being one of the global centres of its activities. Occultism continues to be alarmingly widespread – there are more than 150,000 practicing soothsayers, prognosticators and healers, in contrast to around 50,000 Catholic priests! Eastern and esoteric spirituality are increasingly popular. Italians are more liable to dabble in an occult, New Age or pagan practice than to read the Bible. Those who do pray will often pray to Padre Pio (37%) or Saint Anthony (21%) rather than to Jesus (less than 10%). Cults are active; Jehovah’s Witnesses number more in Italy than all its Protestants combined.