by Giulio Ercolessi, Prominent journalist and commentator and co-founder of the website italialaica.it; former Secretary-General of the Italian Radical Party
Religion matters in Italian public life today. Yet some of the problems arising from Italy’s new religious diversity—a result of a) recent immigration waves and b) secularization—are signiﬁcant. To understand their scope, a short excursion into the historical roots of the present situation is probably necessary. e issue of state-church relations played a crucial role in the formation of the Italian state in the 19th century. It was important, for instance, in the formation of Italy’s national liberal heritage. After the destruction of the French-established Napoleonic regional republics,the divide between the Catholic Church and liberal-minded milieus widened. The heritage of the Enlightenment combined with the Romantic movement’s mainstream assessment of Italy’s religious history. As a result, that history was recast in a negative light: the increasingly liberal public saw the Counter-Reformation as one of the main causes of the civic and political backwardness of Italian society after the end of the Renaissance in the 16th century.