(Investigator 63, 1998 November
Reprinted courtesy of The Advertiser (1998, May 2, p. 51)
ROME: More and more Italians are abandoning Roman Catholicism in favor of new religions and magic cults, according to an Interior Ministry report.
"Even in Italy, a country which is not traditionally accustomed to religious pluralism the number of cults has grown with unexpected speed," the report says.
According to the Interior Ministry's findings, 76 new religious groups with roughly 78,500 followers and 61 magic cults with 4600 members have sprouted up across the country during recent years.
The Interior Ministry said it studied the subject because of public concern over cults in the lead-up to the year 2000.
"There is widespread fear that individuals or uncontrolled religious groups, caught up in some type of religious fervor, might take the end of the millennium as a spur for acts of great cruelty or deviant acts," the report says.
"Faced with growing public alarm, it was deemed necessary to examine the phenomenon and assess the possible existence of threats to order and security."
Its list of new religions ranges from the Communita Mamma Gina, which practises faith-healing, to the Orthodox Catholic Church of Siri d'Antiochia, whose leaders are being investigated for fraud.
The report says the most worrying groups are "psychological sects" such as Scientology which has some 7000 followers in Italy.