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Religions of Chile



In the most recent census (2002), 70 percent of the population over age 14 identified as Roman Catholic and 15.1 percent as evangelical. In the census, the term "evangelical" referred to all non-Catholic Christian churches with the exception of the Orthodox Church (Greek, Persian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and Armenian), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Approximately 90 percent of evangelicals are Pentecostal. Wesleyan, Lutheran, Reformed Evangelical, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Baptist and Methodist churches are also present. Irreligious people, atheists and agnostics, account for around 8% of the population.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Church and state are officially separate in Chile. The 1999 law on religion prohibits religious discrimination. However, the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status and occasionally receives preferential treatment. Government officials attend Catholic events as well as major Protestant and Jewish ceremonies.

The Government-observed religious holidays include Christmas, Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints' Day, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as national holidays. The government has recently declared 31 October, Reformation Day, a public national holiday, in honor of the Protestant churches of the country.

The patron saints of Chile are Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint James the Greater (Santiago). In 2005, St. Alberto Hurtado was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and became the country's second saint after St. Teresa de los Andes