The New Evangelization - Europe











Gibraltar
– British dependency on the tip of the Spanish Peninsula, on the Mediterranean. It was evangelized after the Moors were driven out near the end of the 15th century. Mission work was impeded by the British, who acquired the colony in 1713. An apostolic vicariate was organized in 1817, a diocese in 1910. Most Catholics are Italian or Spanish immigrants. Catholics make up 85% of the population.

Greece - Republic in SE Europe: capital, Athens. Christianity was introduced in the 1st century, in Athens and Corinth by St Paul, on his second missionary journey. Two bishops from Greece attended the 1st Council of Nicaea. The Greeks followed the Eastern rite, and went with Orthodoxy in the schism of 1054. Attempts at the Council of Florence to reunify the East and West, and save Constantinople from the Ottoman Turks, failed. Greece has Latin as well as Greek rites. The Greek Orthodox Church predominates, while the Catholic Church is still trying to gain full legal rights. Catholics are .6% of the population.


Hungary – Republic in east central Europe: capital, Budapest. When Christianity first came to this region is unknown. It was accepted by the Magyars in the 10th century. St. Stephen I helped to extend the Faith and organized the Church into dioceses. Historically Hungrary was a buffer for the Christian West against barbarians from the East. The Hussites and Waldensians were precursors of the Reformation, which began here in 1526, and resulted in the conversion of many people to Lutheranism and Calvinism, though most came back to the Church. The Turks came at about the same time, repressing the Church for 150 years. In 18th century, domination of the Church became government policy, which continued until WWI. The state was increasingly secularized in the later 19th century. After WWII, a Communists waged a campaign against Church, which began by the disbanding of Catholic organizations in 1946. In 1948, all Catholic institutions were suppressed, and attempts were made to subjugate the hierarchy, with the imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty. In 1950, religious orders were suppressed, and many priests and religious were jailed. Some were executed. The government sponsored an alternative "Progressive Catholic" Church. In 1990, diplomatic relations were reestablished with the Vatican. In 1993, the Church was reorganized, and in 1997, some Church property was restored. Catholics are 63% of the population.


Iceland – Island republic in the North Atlantic: capital, Reykjavik. According to legend, the island was first discovered by Irish monks, about 800. It was colonized in the 9th century by Norsemen. The soil was prepared for Christianity by Icelandic travelers, martial and mercantile, who came into contact with Christian civilizations. Some missionaries may have accompanied settlers from Scotland and Ireland.  The first native mission was established in 996, with support from the new Parliament. In 1000, paganism was suppressed and the people compelled to receive Baptism. Evangelization  then consisted of actually converting the nation, which was a laborious effort, but effective. Fifty years later they received their first bishop. Monasteries were established by Benedictines and Augustinians, who contributed to the culture of the island . A turning point was reached in the 15th century. There was a decline of  religion among the clergy, the people faced political strife, plagues, and earthquakes. Lutheranism was introduced with support from Christian III, King of Norway and Denmark. Catholicism was gradually displaced, then outlawed. In the 19th century, Parliament was reestablished and religious freedom restored in 1874.  In 1918, Iceland became independent of Denmark, though subject to the Danish king until 1944, when it cut the last political tie and became a  republic. In 1968, an apostolic vicariate erected in 1929 became a diocese. Catholics are now just 1.4% of the population.


Ireland – Island west of Britain, including an independent republic in the south (capital: Dublin), and a part of the United Kingdom in the north (capital: Belfast). Christianity was introduced by St. Patrick in the 5th century, and his work was continued by Celtic monks. The Celtic Church was organized along monastic lines until the 11th century, when Roman traditions were adopted, including organization along episcopal lines. The Church increased in strength from the time of the Norman Conquest to the reign of Henry VIII, who tried to suppress Catholicism in Ireland, as did several of his successors. The Irish were subjected to a plantation system under absentee landlords until 1714. Some penal laws remained in effect until emancipation in 1829. A century later, Ireland was divided, leaving the northern six counties part of the UK (1920) and giving dominion status to the other 26 as the Irish Free State (1922), which was proclaimed the Republic of Ireland in 1949. In the Irish Republic, Catholicism predominates, but there is religious freedom for all. In Northern Ireland, the long conflict (1960s-90s) between nationalists (Catholics) and unionists (Protestants), has left 3000 people dead. Prospects for peace increased in 1998, with the signing of the "Good Friday agreement." Catholics are 76% of all Ireland (including the North), and 95% of the Republic of Ireland.


Italy – Republic in southern Europe: capital, Rome. Christianity was brought to Rome by the mid-1st century, and St. Peter established his see there as the center of the universal Church. Though persecuted, the Church in Rome increased and expanded throughout Italy. It was organized along the lines of Roman civil organization, with parishes, dioceses, and provinces. With the Edict of Milan (313), the Church was freed from oppression and soon became the official religion of the Empire. When the imperial government was moved from Rome to Constantinople, civil responsibilities in Italy eventually fell to the pope and bishops. From the 4th to the 19th centuries, Church in Rome was a temporal as well as a spiritual power. The Papal States were seized by the  Kingdom of Italy in the 1870s. The 1929 Lateran Pacts recognized the Vatican as an independent state, with a concordat regulating Church-state relations. The concordat was revised in 1984, reducing Church privileges, including the status of Catholicism as the state religion. Catholics are 97% of the population.


Latvia – Baltic republic, independent of the USSR since 1991: capital, Riga. Catholicism was introduced late the 12th century. Lutheranism became dominant after 1530. Catholics were free to practice their faith during a long period under Russian control, and during independence from 1918 until forcibly absorbed by the USSR in 1940. The small Catholic community was repressed under the Soviets, 1940-91. After independence, the Church began to flourish. Catholics are 17.5% of the population.


Liechtenstein - Constitutional monarchy in central Europe: capital, Vaduz. Christianity was introduced in the 4th century. The area has always remained under the jurisdiction of Chur, Switzerland. The Reformation had little impact. Catholicism is state religion, but there is freedom of worship for all. Catholics are 80% of the population.


Lithuania - Baltic republic: capital, Vilnius. Under Soviet domination from 1940, the country regained independence in 1991. Catholicism was introduced in 1251, with a short-lived diocese established by 1260. There was effective evangelization between 1387 and 1417, when Catholicism became the state religion. Lutheran incursions in the 16th century were overcome, and Russian attempts (1795-1918) to convert the Church to Orthodoxy were resisted. Under the Soviet regime (1940-1991), convents and seminaries were closed. Priests were appointed by the government and restricted in their pastoral ministry. No religious services were allowed outside of churches. Religious instruction and publications were banned. Some bishops and hundreds of priests were imprisoned 1945-55. Yet the underground Church was vigorous. In the 1980s, government pressure was eased and some bishops returned to their dioceses. In 1989 Pope John Paul II appointed bishops for all six dioceses. The Church is still seeking the return of properties confiscated in 1940. Catholics are 82% of the population.


Luxembourg – Constitutional monarchy in western Europe: capital, Luxembourg.. Christianity was introduced in the 5th and 6th centuries, and firmly established by the 8th century, with a full-scale parish system by the 9th. The Reformation had little influence, but the French Revolution had some negative impact. 89% of the population is Catholic.


Macedonia – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, independent since 1992: capital, Skopje. Ancient Macedonia was evangelized by St. Paul. Today the diocese of Skopje-Prizren includes the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. Catholics are .9% of the population.


Malta - Island republic south of Sicily: capital, Valletta. St. Paul was shipwrecked there in 60. There is evidence of the early Church in the catacombs. Under Saracen domination, the Church was suppressed from 870 to 1090, when the episcopal succession was restored. Church-state conflict in recent years resolved in 1985. Catholics are 96% of the population.


Moldova – Formerly part of USSR, now independent republic: capital, Kishinev. The population is mainly Orthodox. Catholics (.46%) are mostly of Polish or German descent.


Monaco – Constitutional monarchy, on Mediterranean coast of France: capital, Monaco-Ville. Christianity was introduced before 1000. Catholicism is the state religion, but with freedom of worship. Catholics are 90% of the population.


Netherlands – Constitutional monarchy in NW Europe: capital, Amsterdam.. Evangelization was begun in the 6th century by Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Frankish missionaries. The country was Christianized by 800. In the 16th century, French Calvinism brought serious losses to the Church, and made the Reformed Church dominant. In the 17th century, the Dutch Church operated under burdens of official repression and social handicap. The schism of Utrecht, occurring in 1724, further reduced the Catholic Church, which had only a skeletal organization until 1853, when the hierarchy was reestablished. The cultural isolation of Catholics continued until 1914, when early steps were taken toward interfaith relations. Since Vatican II, the Dutch Church has received publicity for the "progressive" positions taken by some of its leaders. 1990s saw polarization among Catholics over sexual morality, women's ministries, and priestly celibacy. Bishops have condemned permissive laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Catholics make up 31% of the population.


Norway – Constitutional monarchy in western Europe: capital, Oslo. Christianity was introduced in the 9th century by English and Irish missionaries. The Church was firmly established by the 11th century. The first diocese was organized in 1153. The Church continued to develop until the Black Death (1349) inflicted losses from which the Church never recovered. Lutheranism was introduced in 1537 and became the state religion by 1600. The Catholic Church was put under such strictures by law that priests fled the country. There was some loosening of restrictions in the 19th century. Religious liberties were granted in 1845, and many legal disabilities were repealed in 1897. Administered as one apostolic vicariate from 1892, Norway was divided into three jurisdictions in 1932. Catholics are 1% of the population.

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