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Religious and Social Diversity in Rome Today

Instructor: Jenn Lindsay [see profile]
Religious Studies, Sociology

When most people think about religion in Rome, Roman Catholicism and the Vatican seem to tell the whole story. But Rome is statistically the “least Catholic” city in Italy, where, although Catholic affiliation may be high, only 25% of Italians actually practice the religion. Rome is historically also a crossroads of East and West. It is a place where—according to various archaeological records and experts on Ancient Rome—cultural, ethnic and religious diversity have existed since the Empire. The Jewish and Protestant communities of Italy have been well-established for centuries, and provisions for their religious freedom were written into the founding documents of the country. 

Recently, in the decades since the 1970s, millions of people from many countries and religions have flooded into Italy, sparking a profound change in the social fabric of the once homogenous Italian peninsula. This course reviews the key teachings and beliefs of several world religions present in Rome and introduces undergraduate students to the principles and practices of “interfaith dialogue,” using local dialogue case studies and site visits to give context to our discussions. Students will grapple with the complex nature of religious and social diversity in the Eternal City, and the concrete steps many inhabitants of Rome are taking to bridge social divides. We will, as Italian sociologist Enzo Pace wrote, begin to “deal with the unprecedented religious pluralism that has been increasingly characterizing life in Italy.”


  • Weekly reading responses/journal
  • Discussion leading
  • Fieldwork observation assignment
  • Final paper (6-8 page paper or alternative project)