Roman Catholicism in Spain

Roman Catholicism in Spain

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The Spanish Catholic Church, part of the global Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, is under the spiritual leadership of the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, curia
A curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i.e. more or less a tribe, and with a metonymy it came to mean also the meeting place where the tribe discussed its affairs...

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, and the Conference of Spanish Bishops.


There are over 37 million baptized, covering about 94% of the total population. There are 70 diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

s and archdioceses. Like the French church
Roman Catholicism in France
The Roman Catholic Church of France, sometimes called the "eldest daughter of the Church" owing to its early and unbroken communion with the bishop of Rome, is part of the worldwide Catholic Church...

, the Spanish church oversees one of the greatest repositories of religious architecture (and art) in the world, including Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
The ' , commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí...

 church (of Antoni Gaudi
Antoni Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a Spanish Catalan architect and figurehead of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí's works reflect his highly individual and distinctive style and are largely concentrated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, notably his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.Much of Gaudí's work was...

) in Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, Granada Cathedral
Granada Cathedral
Granada Cathedral is the cathedral in the city of Granada, capital of the province of the same name in the Autonomous Region of Andalusia, Spain.-History:...

, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James...

, a popular pilgrim site, Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See , better known as Seville Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville . It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world....

, Toledo Cathedral, and Cordoba Cathedral-Mosque (officially known as the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Assumption).

In 2007, for example, over 100,000 people walked to Santiago de Compostela alone. For over a thousand years, Europeans living north of the Alps have made their way to the Closest place in Europe "where they could access the spiritual authority of an Apostle: Santiago de Compostela."

Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

 in Seville also attracts thousands pilgrims and toursits alike. For centuries Holy Week has had a special significance in the church calendar in Seville, where early on Good Friday the darkened streets of dawn become the stage for solemn processions and celebrations that lead up to festivities of Easter Sunday. Fifty-eight processions (according to a 2008 guide) parallel the health and wealth of the city from the 16th and 17th centuries of its golden age to the French Invasion in the 18th century and finally to its rebirth today in the twentieth century. Despite church attendances falling, in common with the rest of Europe, the Easter processions are expanding, as many newly formed brotherhoods have asked for permission from bishops and other authorities to process during Holy Week.
In 2007, Spain's Islamic Board, which represents a community of 1 million Muslims in Spain, wrote to Pope Benedict XVI
requesting authorization to share the Cordoba Cathedral (also called the Mezquita). The Board noted that Muslims were expected to prostrate themselves in prayer in any place of worship that houses a "mihrab," a prayer recess on the wall facing Mecca. Since the "mihrab" in the cathedral was unique by any standards (possibly the finest of all Moorish architecture in Spain), Muslims should feel free to pray there and be afforded a "singularly ecomenical space" by the church. In response to the request, the Bishop of Cordoba, Juan Asenjo Pelegrina, said that the Cordoba diocese was "not against Muslims having a worthy place of worship, just as it also wishes this for Christians living in countries with a Muslim majority," but "the shared use of Cordoba Cathedral by Catholics and Muslims would not contribute to peaceful relations."

Other places of religious interest are Avila and Segovia. In Avila, the Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns shelters the burial place of St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic and Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

 who wrote Interior Castles and Way of Perfection. In Segovia, one can find the last Gothic cathedral in Spain, called "the Lady of the Cathedrals"; and in the Church of the Discalced Carmelites, the tomb of St. John of the Cross, another 16th century mystic and Doctor of the Church, famous for the way he interwove the poetic and prose expressions of his mysticism in forty poetic stanzas of the Spiritual Canticle and eight additional stanzas for describing the "Dark Night of the Soul."

Another religious (and tourist site) is the Cathedral at Toledo, which houses the "Twelve Apostles" by El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...


In spite of these strong traditions, most Spaniards do not participate regularly in religious services. A study conducted in October 2006 by the Spanish Centre of Sociological Research shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 54% hardly ever or never go to church (except for wedding and funerals), 15% go to church some times a year, 10% some time per month and 19% every Sunday or multiple times per week. A huge majority of young Spaniards, including those who self-identify as Catholic, ignore the church's stance on issues such as pre-marital sex, sexual orientation or contraception. The total number of parish priests has shrunk from 24,300 in 1975 to 19,307 in 2005. Nuns also dropped 6.9% to 54,160 in the period 2000-2005 (though compared to the United States with nearly 70 million Catholics and only 44 thousand priests and 50 thousand nuns, it is not severe).

According to the Eurobarometer 69 (2008), another independent source, only 3% of Spaniards consider religion as one of their three most important values, while the European mean is 7%.

See also

  • Religion in Spain
    Religion in Spain
    Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity present in Spain by far. According to a October 2010 study by the Spanish Center of Sociological Research about 73% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics, 2.2% other faith, and about 22% identify with no religion. Most Spaniards do not...

  • Religion in Europe
    Religion in Europe
    Religion in Europe has been a major influence on art, culture, philosophy and law. The largest religion in Europe for at least a millennium and a half has been Christianity. Two countries in Southeastern Europe have Muslim majorities, while two more Muslim countries located mostly in Asia have...

  • List of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Spain
  • History of Roman Catholicism in Spain
    History of Roman Catholicism in Spain
    Spain, it has been observed, is a nation-state born out of religious struggle between Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, and Protestantism. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was first Christianized while still part of the Roman Empire.-Visigoths:...

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