What is the Church of England

Great Britain leaves the EU. A last look at the colorful denominational map of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The former colonial and world power Great Britain combines various worldviews. Among the 66 million residents, there are around 25 million Anglican, 10 million other Protestant and 6 million Catholic Christians, and more and more people with no denomination or religion. There are also one to four million Buddhists, an estimated three million Muslims, and more than 800,000 Hindus, 420,000 Sikhs and 300,000 Jews.

As in all western democracies, the United Kingdom has seen strong secularization. For historical reasons, denominational relationships are characterized by major regional differences.

Protestant influences prevailed in the 16th century

The history of the once powerful Catholic Church in England and Wales is broken in the 16th century when King Henry VIII seceded from Rome in 1533/34 and established an "Anglican" state church with himself as head. In questions of faith, the Anglicans initially stuck to Catholic doctrine; later Protestant influences prevailed.

The Catholics were henceforth a long persecuted and despised minority, most of whom were poor Irish immigrants and the working class. It was not until the so-called Catholic Relief Act of 1791 that they were allowed to worship again, hold religious instruction and build inconspicuous churches throughout the United Kingdom. In 1850 a Catholic hierarchy with bishops was re-established.

In England, the Catholic Church distinguished itself primarily through its social commitment. Thanks to Italian, Polish and African immigrants, there are local strongholds, especially in the greater London area.

Good Friday Agreement of 1998 ensures peace in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is politically part of the United Kingdom; the Catholic church hierarchy, however, is one of the strongly Catholic Ireland. In Northern Ireland, denominational differences clash particularly hard. In the 1970s they culminated in a bloody civil war that lasted around 30 years, which was finally overcome in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, also with the help of the churches.

However, the tensions persist subliminally. The gates of the so-called Peace Walls of Belfast will be closed this evening in order to separate Catholic and Protestant problem areas from one another. And there are still the martial paintings on private houses, which glorify the supposed martyrs of the civil war and their weapons in bright colors.

The Catholic population in Northern Ireland has grown steadily over the past few decades. It is estimated that Catholics could soon become the majority again. There are setbacks, irreconcilable attitudes, difficult government formations, and in isolated cases even bomb explosions. But at least until Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was able to guarantee peace. The EU's external border now runs through British Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The introduction of the Reformation took a long time

The contrast between Scotland and England has deep cultural and religious roots. In Scotland, which was only united with England and Wales to form the British Kingdom in 1707, the Reformation was predominantly religious, not politically motivated. The main actor there was John Knox (1514-1572), who enforced a Presbyterian, not Anglican church constitution for Scotland. The "Church of Scotland" is, unlike the "Church of England", not Anglican, but Presbyterian Reformed.

The introduction of the Reformation took a long time and was marked by bloody revolts of the so-called Jacobites until the middle of the 18th century. Among them, who fought for the royal house of the Stuarts, were the "Highlanders" who remained Catholic and were organized in traditional clans. In the end they succumbed to the superior military strength of the English. After the suppression in 1745, the English crown cracked down on the remaining followers of the Jacobites. Among other things, they forbade the Highlanders from carrying weapons and maintaining Gaelic culture.

According to the 2011 census, almost 54 percent of the Scottish population professed Christianity. The Reformed national church was accordingly the strongest denomination with around 32 percent, the Catholic Church the second strongest with 16 percent; it benefits from immigration from Poland, Italy and Lithuania. A relative Catholic stronghold is Glasgow with a share of around 25 percent at the time.