Living in Portugal

Portugal is profoundly Roman Catholic. Approximately 85 percent of the population considered itself Roman Catholic - the highest percentage in Western Europe. Only about one-third of the population attend mass and take the sacraments regularly, but nearly all Portuguese wish to be baptized and married in the church and to receive its last rites.

Portugal is Roman Catholic not only in a religious sense, but also socially and culturally. Many Portuguese holidays and festivals have religious origins, and the country's moral and legal codes derive from Roman Catholic precepts. The educational and health care systems were long the church's preserve, and whenever a building, bridge, or highway was opened, it received the blessing of the clergy.

Local village life are marked by various celebrations honoring the saints. 'Romarias' (pilgrimages) to regional shrines are a central feature of religious practice, especially in northern Portugal.In rural areas where the celebration of saints' days and religious festivals are popular. The most famous of Portuguese religious events is the supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary to three children in 1917 in the village of Fátima in the province of Santarém. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have visited the shrine at Fátima in the belief that the pilgrimage could bring about healing.

Portuguese villagers also celebrate an annual festa (generally but not always to honor the patron saint) that includes a procession and combines elements of both the sacred and the secular.



 Updated 26.05.2011