RE in Portugal

Cost with houset on the top of cliff.

Religious Education in Portugal


Religious Communities and Religious Education in Portugal

Although the great majority of Portuguese people are Roman Catholic (81%), there are also many other religions, in many cases due to the migrants flows. From having been a country with a large-scale emigration, Portugal since the last decades became also a hosting country for immigrants. Portugal became a migration destination in the 1970s, with the independence of its former African colonies: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde & São Tomé e Príncipe. Since the late 1990s, the geography of immigration to Portugal has undergone truly profound changes. Today, different communities make up 5% of the population resident in Portugal, about 10% of the active population. The main nationalities of migrants come from Brazil, East European and African countries. As already said, the great majority of Portuguese people are Roman Catholic (81%), according to the 2011 Census, though only about 19% practice their faith and go to Mass regularly (Teixeira, 2012). Other religious communities: Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Evangelical, etc., are formed almost entirely by immigrants and their families.

Among Christians there are, for example, Evangelicals, Anglicans, MethodistsCongregationalistsBaptistsPresbyterians, the Lusitanian Evangelical Church, the Church of Scotland, etc. Among other religions,  besides Jews and Muslims, there are also, for example, the Baha’i Spiritual AssemblyPentecostalsMormonsJehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

Diagram of population.
Source: Strategic and Planning Office – Lists of Personnel (2008)
Table of Female Immigrant Workers in Portugal
Source: Strategic and Planning Office – Lists of Personnel (2008)

State, Religion and Religious Freedom

Portugal is not a confessional State: State and Church are formally separated, a separation reiterated in the Constitution of 1976. The Portuguese Constitution clearly defines the fundamental right of freedom of conscience, religion and worship for all religions (art.13º, 41º). In relation to the State and political power, the religious communities are autonomous and free in their organization and cults. Freedom is given to teach any religion, and to use the media for the appropriate activities.

Religious and Moral Education

The Portuguese Constitution from 1976 ensures freedom of learning and teaching (art. 43, par. 1). It also assures freedom for private schools on all levels (art. 43, par. 4). Moral and Religious Education classes at public Schools always have an optional character. The different Churches are free to programme classes and to select their own teachers who are paid by the State, if a minimum of 10 students are enrolled.

The Religious Freedom Act 18 (Parliamentary Statute 16/2001, 22 June) states that “Churches and other religious communities are free to carry out their religious activities without the interference of the State or third parties (art.23).
Article 24 is about religious Education in public schools. It establishes that religious teaching in public schools is granted for churches (art. 24, par. 1) but not as an alternative to other subjects (par 2). In order to have Religious Education in public Schools, a minimum of 10 students is necessary (Decree-Law No. 329/98 of 2 November, art 6, par. 1).

Religious Education Programmes, teachers training and class materials must be provided by the religious communities, accomplishing general education policies (art.25, par.5). According to latest official figures, besides the Catholic Church, only some Evangelical churches and one Baha’i community exercised this right to provide confessional education in public schools. Evangelical classes are attended by nearly 2,500 students. According to Folque (2012), “as confessional classes are optional, the central religious issues are absent from general studies – this represents a significant gap in the educational system”

Profile of the Teacher of Catholic Moral and Religious Education

In Portugal, there is an Episcopal Commission of Christian Education responsible to establish the Programmes, to define the Profile and the training of the Teacher of Catholic Moral and Religious Education. Just to give an example it says: “The profile of professor of Catholic Moral and Religious Education (EMRC) contains specific aspects arising from the identity of the discipline. In addition to the provisions of Decree-Law No. 240/2001, should have, given the specific nature of the discipline, the following dimensions:

As an educator

  • Inspire confidence in the knowledge and understanding of others through a frank and open dialogue, which approaches the students, leaving them to foresee an irrefutable human sensitivity;
  • Maintain a personal relationship designed essentially to facilitate psychological and intellectual development of students, extended to their families, with which strives to have a permanent contact;
  • The ability to host and dialogue with students and colleagues, in the treatment of the programs, how demand and ensures interdisciplinary;
  • Undertakes in the life of the school, being understood as an educational community and not only as a space where we teach;
  • Actively participates throughout the learning process, assuming a posture of critical mediator throughout the educational action;
  • Strives to be competent in science and education.

As a testimony of faith

  • Feel the responsibility of witnessing, because, being the consummate Professional, this reality is prized because it is an educator who witness an authentic Christian experience;
  • Is a person of hope, with young spirit and, psychologically, adult and mature;
  • Is aware of your “vocation” and “mission” received since becoming the Church’s evangelizing presence at school, through the mandate of the Bishop.

Dynamism of conversion

  • Is a Christian, firm in faith and spirituality;
  • Is a Christian who, with the students, experience faith, and, along with all other members of the educational process, the spiritual dimension of life;
  • Is a Christian who understands the technological, economic and social changes and that examines the signs of the times therein;
  • Is a Christian who preserves and develops the feeling and the factors of religious and cultural identity of the people;
  • Is a Christian who reinforces the moral values and concrete action;
  • Is a Christian who collaborates with existing structures engaged in the implementation of Justice, peace and solidarity with the disadvantaged and marginalized

During the Covid pandemics, all the religious classes were given online, mostly preparing the youth to the next World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, 2023.


Censos 2011 Resultados definitivos. Portugal. Lisboa, INE, 2012.

Comissão Episcopal da Educação Cristã e Doutrina da Fé, EDUCRIS in (accessed 28th November 2017).

Folque, A. (2012).Religion in public Portuguese education in Gerhard Robbers (ed.), Religion in Public Education – La religion dans l’éducation publique, European Consortium for Church and State Research, Trier, 2011, 399-424. 

Teixeira, A. (2012). Identidades religiosas em Portugal: representações, valores e práticas. Centro de Estudos e Sondagens de Opinião & Centro de Estudos de Religiões e Culturas – Universidade católica Portuguesa, 2011.