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Norway: separation between Lutheran Church and State. “Religious freedom and equal faiths”

“January 1st, 2017, marks a clear separation between Church and State: now, bishops, pastors and deacons are not public servants any more; pastoral councils are not public agencies any more”. This is how the website of the Church of Norway explains the final stage in the process triggered by the constitutional reform, launched by Parliament on May 21st, 2012. Now, the Lutheran Church is not the State Church any more, but “a denomination and legal person that is independent” of the State, “with the Synod as its most important board”. It is the “widest organisational change since the Reform, 500 years ago”, the official notice goes on. The change was dictated by the need to protect “religious freedom and equality between religious communities” as well as “the independence of the Church of Norway”. Such change has deep economic implications too, since, with the new rules, the about 1,250 bishops and pastors will no longer be paid by the State but by the Lutheran Church. Officially, about 73% of Norwegians belong to the Lutheran Church, but only 5% of devotees are proactively and consistently involved in communal life.

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