POPULATION61,261,254 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$30,900 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSChristian 80% (overwhelming Roman Catholic with very small groups of Jehova Witnesses and Protestants), Muslims NEGL (about 700,000 but growing), Atheists and Agnostics 20%
ALSO IN EUROPE AND RUSSIAAlbania
AT THE CENTER
Italy is a secular republic with a national identity rooted firmly in Roman Catholicism. Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has been based in Rome, with most popes being Italian, and has played a primary role in shaping Italian social and political developments over the last 1,600 years. The unification and independence of Italy was achieved over the second half of the 19th century against the wishes of the Vatican. Catholicism was disestablished as the state religion in 1984 but remains a hallmark of Italian society, and the Church is influential in most political parties. While the constitution guarantees religious freedom, the Church receives nearly all the taxes collected under a law in which taxpayers choose what organization will receive 0.8% of their annual income. However, Italian society and government do not always abide by Catholic teachings: divorce and abortion have been legalized in recent decades.