Religion has played a significant role in social and political life throughout Argentinian history. Roman Catholicism is particularly culturally pervasive and continues to be the official religion of the state. Approximately 92% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic; however, less than 20% are actively practising. While Roman Catholicism is the official religion of the state, freedom of religious choice is protected under the Argentine constitution. Indeed, there are various religious groups in the country; 2% identify as Protestant, 2% identify as Jewish (making the Jewish population in Argentina the largest in), and 4% identify with some other religion.
Catholicism in Argentina
For much of Argentina’s history, the Catholic Church has had significant influence and power over the country. The religion was introduced to Argentina in the 17th century by Jesuit missionaries from Spain. As a branch of Christianity, Catholicism presents the doctrine of God as the ‘Holy Trinity’, consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Like most Catholics, many Argentines accept the authority of the priesthood and Roman Catholic Church, which is led currently by an Argentinian Pope – Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis. As the first pope to come from, Pope Francis is a great source of pride for many Argentines.
Catholicism is deeply interwoven in the public life of Argentina. Indeed, it is common to see religious symbols such as crucifixes and churches everywhere one goes. Church attendance is most common for events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals. While some attend church on Sundays, many Argentines reserve the weekend as a time to be spent with family. The older generation tends to be more connected to Catholicism than the youth of Argentina, particularly regarding church attendance. Indeed, Catholicism has been decreasing in popularity over the decades. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in Protestantism and an increase in the percentage of the population considered to be unaffiliated with organised religion.
The distribution of practising Catholics and Protestants varies significantly by socioeconomic status in Argentina. Many Argentines who identify as Protestant are people from lower-income groups within society. Indeed, Protestantism is often popular among marginalised individuals who feel disconnected from the Catholic Church. One of the most popular branches of Protestantism in Argentina is Evangelical Christianity.
There are also regional differences in the practice and degree of religiosity in Argentina. The capital (Buenos Aires) is considered to be the most secularised region of the country while the desert provinces of Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán tend to show a strong sense of religious devotion. One of the biggest religious gatherings in Argentina is the feast of ‘Señor y Virgen del Milagro’ (the Lord and Virgin of the Miracle), typically celebrated in Salta. The event contains a large procession of people who walk, bike or ride by horseback from their farmlands and desert towns into the province.