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Creating the framework for managing religions

In 1795, the territory of modern Belgium was annexed to the Republic of France. In 1796-1797, various faith-related measures adopted in France were introduced into the regions of Belgium: confiscation of clergy possessions, which were then sold; application of the civil constitution of the clergy, suppression of religious congregations...

On 10th November 1799, Napoleon assumed power and the Constitution of Year VIII appointed him First Consul. On 10th September 1801, Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII ratified a concordat establishing that worship could be exercised freely and publicly; however, in the so-called Organic Articles, the organisation of worship and the status of ministers of religion were held under strict control.

After the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna (1815) decided to place the Calvinist regions of the North and the Catholic areas of the South under the governance of King William I of Orange-Nassau.

But this United Kingdom of the Netherlands did not last long. Belgium gained independence in the 1830 revolution and the National Congress adopted the Constitution in its decree of 7th February 1831. The Concordat system was abandoned, but the measures implemented remained unilaterally in force, as long as they were not unconstitutional. The Belgian Constitution of 1831 included four articles on religion and relations between Church and State.

In 1988, the dual guarantee on the neutrality of state schools and the teaching of recognised religions in public schools was written into the Constitution.

The special law of 13th July 2001 attributed an important part of decision-making to the three regions of Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels-Capital. While the system of worship had hitherto been concerned only marginally by the sustained institutional reforms that the Belgian State had been undergoing since 1970, the transfer to regional areas of the capacity to hold "church councils and public institutions responsible for managing the temporalities of recognised faiths" meant that it took its place alongside domains already partially regionalised.

D 26 July 2012    ALouis-Léon Christians APatrick de Pooter

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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