MundoAndino Home : Argentina Guide at MundoAndino

Religion in Argentina

A majority of the population of Argentina is nominally Roman Catholic. According to one source, about 76.5% of Argentinians are Roman Catholic, 11.3% religiously indifferent, 9% Protestant (with 7.9% in Pentecostal denominations), 1.2% Jehovah's Witnesses, and 0.9% Mormons.In the last decades, as in the rest of America, there has been a rise in Evangelical movements, which have mostly gathered converts from Catholicism in the lower classes. Although Jews account for lesss than 1% of Argentina's population, Buenos Aires has the second largest population of Jewish people in the Americas, second only to New York City. Argentina also has the largest Muslim minority in America (see Islam in Argentina). According to Annuario Pontificio, based on parish statistics, 89% of the population is Catholic.

From a fundamentalist, especially American Protestant perspective, Catholic practices (especially in the non-central areas) incorporate a great deal of alleged syncretism; for example, religious festivals in the north-western provinces feature Catholic icons in (or along with) ancient Andean indigenous ceremonies. The Pachamama worship is still widespread throughout Salta and Jujuy along with Catholic beliefs, without opposition from the Catholic Bishops. Many Bishops feel the line between relevance and syncretism can often be "exasperatingly variable, difficult to discern, and controverial." Such concerns are reflected in Edward Said's saying, "No one today is purely one thing." Another missiologist, Dale Irvin, notes that "our hybrids are profilferating and, contrary to nature, are multiplying exponentially." Ivan Illich, for example, was convinced that American Christianity was so utterly and irredeemably "syncretized" as to disqualify its citizens from authentic missionary vocation. In this regard, another missiologist, Jonas Adelin Jorgensen, notes that "Christian witness on cultural-religious frontiers raises fresh questions about bewilderingly complex and constantly evolving issues of contexualization and syncretism" in, for example, predminantly Hindu and Muslim societies, "where the word 'Christian' has long been associated with the worst that Western Christianity has to offer." This critique, vis a vis American Protestant criticism of Argentine Catholicism, might explain the posture of the Argentine Bishops.Jonathan J.Bonk, "Syncretism and the Eternal Word," International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 33, No. 4, October, 2009, 170. The Christian faith itself, it has been noted, "springs from the most astonishing syncretism conceivable -- God becomes a human being; the eternal becomes temporal; omnipotence yields to powerlessness."

The study shows a decrease in the perceived authority of the Church, but not an increased secularization; in fact, people who consider themselves "religious" went from 62% in 1984 to 81% in 1999. There is however a tendency to moral relativism: 54% of those surveyed expressed the opinion that "there is no clear dividing line between good and evil" because "they depend completely on the circumstances".

A separate Gallup poll for Latin America (2000) showed that regular attendance to church is tied to ideological considerations, as well as gender, age, education level and status .

Information supplied by the National Registry of Worship, various religious groups, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) produced the following estimates in 2005, which do not necessarily reflect active religious practice (going to Mass or Liturgy every Sunday throughout the year): Catholics, 70 percent of the population; Protestants, 9 percent; Muslims, 1.5 percent; Jews, 0.8 percent; other religious groups, 2.5 percent; and the remainder, no declared religious affiliation. This Registry's data, however, is often based on "outdated census data" and "questionable presumptions." The CIA Factbook lists 92% of the country is Catholic, but only 20% are practicing regularly or weekly at a church service.

Popular cults

Besides traditional religious practices, there are also a number of unconventional practices, usually part of local folklore. One of the most famous is the veneration of La Difunta Correa ("The Deceased Correa").

Deolinda Correa was a woman whose husband fought in the civil war in 1840. Correa, along with her infant son, followed her husband's battalion. While in San Juan, Correa suffered from starvation and thirst, and eventually died as a result. A group of soldiers found her body a few days afterwards, her son still alive and nursing from her breast. Because of this apparent miracle, people built shrines in her name in Vallecito, where she is buried. Her followers believe that Deolinda Correa has supernatural powers to heal, read minds and bilocate, and each year they make a pilgrimage to her grave, where they present gifts and plastic bottles of water to thank her for miracles that they believe she granted.

Another popular cult is that of the Gauchito Gil , born in the province of Corrientes (allegedly in 1847). Gil was forced to enlist to fight in the civil war, but he deserted and became an outlaw a la Robin Hood.

From the Rio Negro Province, Ceferino Namuncura, son of the Mapuche cacique Manuel Namuncura, is also source of veneration all over the Patagonia. He died of tuberculosis with only 18 years of age, while in Italy during his catholic education, and was later named venerable by the Vatican.

There is also the popular cult of Miguel Angel Gaitan, from Villa Union, in La Rioja, known as El Angelito Milagroso, an infant who died of meningitis just short of his first birthday, who people recur to for requests and miracles.

Many other beliefs in advocations of the Virgin, saints and other religious characters exist throughout the country, which are locally or regionally popular and church-endorsed, among them the following:

In Corrientes: Virgin of Itati, Curuzu Jose.

In Salta and Jujuy: Virgin of the Rosary, Virgin of the Mercies, Virgin of Rio Blanco and Paypaya.

In Santiago del Estero: Our Lord of Mailin, Virgin of Huachana, Virgin of Sumampa.

In Bariloche: Virgin of the Snows, Virgin of Nahuel Huapi.

In Catamarca: Virgin of the Valley.

In Buenos Aires: San Cayetano.

In Buenos Aires Province: Virgin of the Rosary of San Nicolas de los Arroyos, Virgin of Lujan, Pancho Sierra.

In Cordoba: Virgin of Punilla.

In Neuquen: Virgin of Andacollo.

In La Rioja: Nino Alcalde, Christ of the Rock (Cristo de la Pena), Indian Virgin of Sanagasta.

In Misiones: Virgin of Iguazu.

In San Juan: Virgin of the Valley of Tulum.

In La Pampa: Saint Mary of La Pampa.

In Santa Cruz: Virgin of Guer Aike.

In San Luis Province: Cristo de la Quebrada (Christ of the Creek).

Legal status

The Preamble of the Argentine Constitution reflects the deistic beliefs of many of the crafters, often influenced by ideas of the Freemasonry (when not Freemasons themselves). The statement of the Constitution's goals ends by "invoking the protection of God, source of all reason and justice".

The Constitution includes several references to religion. The 14th article, which summarizes the rights of the citizens, includes religious freedom: "All the inhabitants of the nation are entitled to the following rights: ... to freely profess their cult...". The 93rd article allows for the president and the vice-president taking office to swear their oath before Congress "respecting their religious beliefs".

The state grants the Roman Catholic Church special privileges to it, based on the second article of the Constitution:

El Gobierno federal sostiene el culto catolico, apostolico, romano.

"The Federal Government supports the Apostolic Roman Catholic religion."

However, this privileges does not imply that the Roman Catholic religion is elevated to the position of state religion in Argentina, having the Supreme Court ruled that the Roman Catholic Church was not granted the status of official religion by the constitution or any federal legislation.

Officially speaking, the support given to the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina is economic (the federal state pays a salary to bishops and cardinals) as well as institutional . The state also subsidizes many private schools, most of which are affiliated with the Catholic Church. The total economic support of the Church by the state amounts to 12 million Argentine pesos per year (about 4 million USD). Each bishop receives a monthly salary that is set by law to the equivalent of 80% of that a judge, about 4,300 pesos or 1,430 USD. Older seminarists and retired priests receive minor pensions, and parishes in conflictive and border areas are subsidized with 335 pesos per month (112 USD). As of December 2005, and after recent conflicts with the national government, the Argentine Episcopacy is considering the possibility of forgoing this support, in favor of full independence. [*]

The Constitution once stated that the president must be a Roman Catholic. This requirement was removed from the text in the 1994 constitutional reform. The old 1853 text also included a goal "to keep a pacific relationship with the Indians and promote their conversion to Catholicism", which was deleted in the reform.

The law that regulates the acknowledgement of religions by the state dates from 1978, and makes it prohibitively bureaucratic for minority cults to attain official recognition, since it was passed by the dictatorial government of the time basically to search those cults for politically subversive elements. The current government has expressed its intention to modify the law, which would allow, for example, for the quick recognition of the native Mbya-Guarani tribal religion. [*]

For more historical details about the relations and conflicts of the Argentine State with the Catholic Church, see the article on State-Church relations in Argentina.


The Argentine Constitution (in Spanish)

U.S. Department of State - 2004 Annual Report for International Religious Freedom: Argentina

Religious Freedom World Report - Argentina

Marita Carballo. Valores culturales al cambio del milenio (ISBN 950-794-064-2). Cited in La Nacion, 2005-05-08.

ACI Digital, January 2000 (In Spanish)

Didn't find what you were looking for.
Need more information for your travel research or homework?
Ask your questions at the forum about Religion in Argentina or help others to find answers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Religion in Argentina

Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - 2009