South Tyrol and Catholic Church

About 98 per cent of the inhabitants of South Tyrol belong to the Catholic church. There are Evangelical communities in Bozen (Bolzano) with about 600 members and in Meran (Merano) with about 200 each with a pastor. In Meran (Merano) there is also a small Jewish cultural community with about 60 members. There is a Russian Orthodox church with its seat in Zarenbrunn in Obermais (Maia Alta) without however its own priest. In Bozen (Bolzano) there is an Italian Adventist community and in some places in the Province there are also Free Church groups.

The diocese of Bozen-Brixen (Bolzano-Bressanone) has existed since September 1964. At that time it was created out of the body of the diocese of Brixen (Bressanone) to which until the end of the First World War today's diocese of Innsbruck and Vorarlberg belonged and the so-called German part of the archdiocese of Trient (Trento) composed of the ten deaneries between Klausen (Chiusa) and Schlanders (Silandro). Today its borders are the same as the Autonomous Province of Bozen (Bolzano). The diocese is divided into 28 deaneries 23 of which are majority German- speaking 3 majority Italian-speaking and 2 majority Ladin. The diocese contains 280 parishes. Since 1986 the bishop of the diocese has been Dr. Wilhelm Egger (born in 1940).

The number of priests in the diocese is 426 (April 1995). The 15 male ecclesiastical Orders and Congregations number 245 priests and 68 brothers in all while the 27 female Orders on the other hand have 897 members. There are ever more lay persons in church employ particularly in schools. The Catholic Church in South Tyrol is strongly integrated into social and community life and works for the peaceful co-existence of the three ethnic groups. It runs numerous cultural educational and social establishments. The Theology-Philosophy College of the diocese in Brixen (Bressanone) is associated with the Theology Faculty of the University of Innsbruck and as a College of Pontifical Law is entitled to award the Baccalaureat.

The College supports the Graduate Institute for Theological Education which is recognised by the Education Congregation in Rome as a Graduate Institute of Divinity [Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose] and can award the degree of Master of Divinity [Magistero in Scienze Religiose]. In November 1994 the Institute for Justice Peace and the Preservation of Creation was set up at the Theology-Philosophy College. According to research undertaken by the Provincial Statistics office some 53 per cent of Catholics in the Bozen-Brixen (Bolzano-Bressanone) diocese regularly attend church on Sundays. There is however a significant difference between country and town attendance and between the older and younger generations.

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