Religion in Chile (2021 estimate)[1]

  Catholicism (46%)
  Other Christian (15%)
  No religion (37%)
  Others (2%)
Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral

Christianity is the most widely professed religion in Chile, with Catholicism being its largest denomination. The country is secular and the freedom of religion is established under its Constitution.

Historically, the indigenous peoples in Chile observed a variety of religions before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. During Spanish rule and the first century of Chilean independence, the Catholic Church was one of the most powerful institutions in the country. In the late 19th century, liberal policies (the so-called Leyes laicas or "lay laws") started to reduce the influence of the clergy and the promulgation of a new Constitution in 1925 established the separation of church and state.

A 2023 AmericasBarometer[2] survey revealed that almost 40% of the Chilean population is unaffiliated, making Chile the second least religious country in Latin America, after Uruguay.


In the last census in Chile, in the year 2002, indigenous people make up 5 percent (780,000) of the population. 65 percent of indigenous people identify themselves as Catholic, 29 percent as evangelical, and 6 percent as "others."

In 2022, Chilean affiliations were 88% Christian (mainly Catholic), 0.15% Baha'i, 0.1% Jewish, 0.1% Muslim and 10% non-religious.[3]

Members of the largest religious groups (Catholic, Pentecostal, and other evangelical churches) are numerous in the capital and are also found in other regions of the country. Jewish communities are located in Santiago, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Valdivia, Temuco, Concepción, La Serena, and Iquique (although there is no synagogue in Iquique). Mosques are located in Santiago, Iquique, and Coquimbo.[4]

Mapuche communities, constituting 87% of indigenous citizens, continue to respect traditional religious leaders (Longkos and Machis), and anecdotal information indicates a high degree of syncretism in worship and traditional healing practices.[4]

Religious affiliation and practices


UC-Adimark Bicentennial Survey[5][6][1]
Year Catholic Protestant/Evangelical Unaffiliated Other religions
2006 70% 14% 12% 4%
2007 66% 18% 14% 3%
2008 67% 14% 15% 4%
2009 67% 16% 13% 4%
2010 63% 17% 17% 3%
2011 63% 15% 18% 4%
2012 59% 18% 19% 4%
2013 61% 17% 19% 4%
2014 59% 16% 22% 3%
2015 61% 16% 21% 2%
2016 58% 18% 20% 3%
2017 59% 17% 19% 4%
2018 58% 16% 21% 3%
2019 45% 18% 32% 5%
2021 42% 14% 37% 6%

Importance of religion

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, Chileans who say religion is very important in their lives has decreased from 46% in 2007 to 27% in 2015. Twenty percent said religion is "Not at all important."[7][8]

How important is religion in your life?
Year Very important Somewhat important Not too important Not at all important Don't Know/Refused
2007 46% 31% 11% 10% 3%
2013 39% 32% 18% 10% 0%
2015 27% 34% 17% 20% 2%
2021 23% 25% 32% 19% 1%

Legal and policy framework

A modest memorial for the Protestants buried at the hillside of the Cerro Santa Lucía in Santiago de Chile. Until 1871 it was not allowed by the Catholic Church to bury "dissidents" in the cemeteries.[9]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion. On June 28 2022, the Constitutional Convention approved a draft constitution that included four paragraphs establishing freedom of religion as a fundamental right.[10]

Church and state are officially separate. The 1999 law on religion prohibits religious discrimination; however, the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status and occasionally receives preferential treatment. In 2006, government officials were attending Catholic events as well as major Protestant and Jewish ceremonies.[4]

The Government observes Christmas, Good Friday, the Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, All Saints' Day, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as national holidays.[4]

The law allows any religious group to apply for legal public right status (comprehensive religious nonprofit status). The Ministry of Justice may not refuse to accept a registration petition, although it may object to the petition within 90 days on the grounds that all legal prerequisites for registration have not been satisfied. The petitioner then has 60 days to address objections raised by the Ministry or challenge the Ministry in court. Once a religious entity is registered, the state cannot dissolve it by decree. The semiautonomous Council for the Defense of the State may initiate a judicial review; however, no organization that has registered under the 1999 law has subsequently been deregistered.[4]

In addition, the law allows religious entities to adopt a charter and by-laws suited to a religious organization rather than a private corporation. They may establish affiliates (schools, clubs, and sports organizations) without registering them as separate corporations.

During 2006, 516 religious organizations registered under the 1999 law and gained legal public right status, bringing the total to 1,659 registered religious groups. Publicly subsidized schools are required to offer religious education twice a week through high school; participation is optional (with parental waiver). Religious instruction in public schools is almost exclusively Catholic. Teaching the creed requested by parents is mandatory; however, enforcement is sometimes lax, and religious education in faiths other than Catholicism is often provided privately through Sunday schools and at other venues. Local school administrations decide how funds are spent on religious instruction. Although the Ministry of Education has approved curriculums for 14 other denominations, 92 percent of public schools and 81 percent of private schools offered only Catholic instruction. Parents may homeschool their children or enroll them in private schools for religious reasons.[4]

Religious freedom

The constitution Chile provides for the freedom of religion, although it stipulates that this freedom must be not be “opposed to morals, to good customs or to the public order". It further establishes a separation between church and state, and other laws prohibit religious discrimination.[11]

Religious organizations are not required to register with the government, but may do so to receive tax breaks. Religious groups may appoint chaplains to provide services in hospitals and prisons. Officially registered groups may appoint chaplains for the military.[11] The celebration of a Catholic Mass frequently marks official and public events. In 2006, membership in the Catholic Church is considered beneficial to a military career.[4]

All schools are required to provide two hours of religious education per week, tailored to the religious affiliations of the students. The majority of such courses focus on a Catholic perspective, but the government has approved curricula for 14 different religious groups. Parents may also choose to excuse their children from such classes.[11]

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, arsonists attacked Baptist and Catholic churches in the primarily indigenous Mapuche communities in the rural Araucania Region in 2017. According to other sources, the church attacks fit into a pattern of sabotage directed at a wide range of institutions, business interests, and infrastructure in Araucania, and thus may not necessarily have been intended as a religiously-motivated attack. As of the end of 2017, a trial was still pending for the arson suspects, and the regional government verbally committed itself to helping rebuild the churches.[11]

Leaders of the Jewish community have expressed concerns about incidences of antisemitic vandalism and graffiti targeting Jews.[11]

Catholic Church Approval (2017)

  Approve (32%)
  Disapprove (56%)
  Don't Know/No Answer (12%)

The National Office of Religious Affairs facilitates inter-religious dialogue and promotes tolerance of religious diversity.[11]

In 2023, Chile was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.[12]



Main article: Catholic Church in Chile

The Catholic Churches of Chiloé have been declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

As with most of Latin America, Catholicism is the main religion in Chile since its introduction during the Spanish colonization of the Americas although their figures have declined signifactively in the last decade. In 2022, the Vatican noted that the 74% of the population was Catholic.[13]

Catholicism was introduced by priests with the Spanish colonialists in the 16th century. Most of the native population in the northern and central regions was evangelized by 1650. The southern area proved more difficult and Catholicism settled in the area after the Occupation of the Araucania in the late 19th century. In the 20th century, church expansion was impeded by a shortage of clergy and government attempts to control church administration. Relations between church and state were strained under both Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet.

The Catholic Church is one of the largest organizations in the country. There are five archdioceses, 18 dioceses, two territorial prelatures, one apostolic vicariate, one military ordinariate and one personal prelature (Opus Dei). Usually, the archbishop of Santiago acts as the head of the church in the country, although the Holy See is represented officially by the Apostolic Nunciature to Chile.

The Catholic Church is currently one of the principal providers of education (including universities) and health care in the country and is involved in several initiatives to support different charities. However, the support of the Chilean population has decreased in the last decades, especially after diverse cases of sexual abuse by Catholic members have been published. According to a survey conducted in October 2017 by Plaza Publica Cadem, 56% of Chileans disapprove the performance of the Catholic Church in Chile, whilst 32% approve.[14]


Main article: Protestantism in Chile

The Frutillar Lutheran Temple is a National Monument of Chile

Protestants represented 2.5% of Chilean people in 2022.[15] Protestants first arrived in the first half of the nineteenth century, with American missionary David Trumbull[16] and with German immigrants from Protestant parts of Germany, mainly Lutherans. Later, representatives from Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Methodism, Pentecostalism, and other Protestant denominations began work in the country.

Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries first arrived in 1895,[17] today there are estimated 126,814 Adventists in Chile.

Latter-day Saints (Mormonism)

Main article: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile

Santiago Chile Temple

Early apostle Parley P. Pratt was among the first Mormon missionaries to preach in Chile, landing in Valparaiso in November, 1851, along with Elder Rufus Allen and Phoebe Sopher, one of Pratt's wives, who was pregnant at the time. The mission party was impressed by the Chilean countryside and people. Pratt wrote that the people he met in Chile were “a neat, plain, loving and sociable people; very friendly, frank, and easy to become acquainted with,” but the mission trip met with tragedy when the Pratt's month-old son died in January 1852.[18] Hampered by language difficulties and a lack of literature in the Spanish language (selections of the Book of Mormon were not translated into Spanish until 1875[19]) the missionaries left Chile after four months without having a successful baptism.[18] Pratt used his experience in South America to advise Brigham Young that the success of future missionary efforts would be based on translations of the scriptures.[20]

Missionary work in Chile began in earnest in 1956, when the country was made part of the Argentine mission and the first small branch was formed.[21] By 1961, the country had 1,100 members and the Chilean mission was organized. The following three decades saw explosive growth in church membership, with the church membership doubling every two years at its peak.[18] The growth sparked a building boom during these decades. Hundreds of LDS chapels were constructed, capped by the dedication of the Santiago Temple in 1983. Church growth continued in the 1990s, with the country having the greatest growth in LDS membership in South America during the decade. Between 1994 and 1996, 26 new stakes were dedicated in the country.[21] A second temple, in Concepción, was announced in 2009. The Antofagasta Chile Temple, Chile's third temple, was announced on April 7, 2019, by President Russell M. Nelson in his concluding remarks at the Sunday Afternoon Session of General Conference.[22]

Although an average of 12,000 people were baptized annually between 1961 and 1990, membership growth has slowed and the church has a large number of inactive members. According to census data, 0.9% of the population claims to be Mormon, based upon those aged 15 and over who identify themselves as Mormon. The church itself reports that it has 543,628 members in Chile, which is equal to about 3.2% of the population. If accurate, these numbers makes the LDS Church the single largest denomination in Chile after Catholicism.[21] LDS statistics counts everyone baptized, including children age eight or older as well as inactive members. In 2002, the church sent Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to remain in Chile for a year to train leadership and minister to the church, a role typically held by members of the quorums of the seventy.[23]

Jorge F. Zeballos, a former mining engineer, is a Chilean-born LDS General Authority. He was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April, 2008.[24] Zeballos is the second Chilean to serve as a General Authority following Eduardo Ayala, who served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1990 to 1995.

Jehovah's Witnesses

In 2020, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses was 85,273 active publishers, united in 959 congregations; 180,281 people attended annual celebration of Lord's Evening Meal in 2020.[25]

Baháʼí Faith

Main article: Bahá'í Faith in Chile

See also: Santiago Baháʼí Temple

Santiago Baháʼí Temple.

The Baháʼí Faith in Chile begins with references to Chile in Baháʼí literature as early as 1916, with the first Baháʼís visiting the country as early as 1919. A functioning community wasn't founded in Chile until 1940 with the beginning of the arrival of coordinated Baháʼí pioneers from the United States finding national Chilean converts and achieved an independent national community in 1963. The US government estimated 6,000 Baháʼís in Chile as of 2007[26] though the Association of Religion Data Archives estimated some 26,400 Baháʼís in 2010.[27]

In 2002 this community was picked for the establishment of the first Bahá'í Temple of South America.[28] The Santiago Baháʼí Temple was inaugurated in 2016 in Peñalolén, in the Andean slopes over the city. After its dedication, the temple has become in an important landmark of the city, receiving thousands of visitors every month.


Main article: History of the Jews in Chile

Synagogue in Santiago de Chile

The earliest recorded Jew living in Chile was a converso by the name of Rodrigo de Orgonos who came with the expedition of Diego de Almagro in 1535. Conversos were widely persecuted until Chile gained independence from Spain in 1818. Even after independence, it was not until 1865 that a special law permitted non-Catholics to practice their religion in private homes and establish private schools.[29] As of the 2012 Chilean census, 16,294 Chilean residents listed their religion as Judaism.[30]


Main article: Hinduism in Chile

A few Indians had gone to Chile in the 1920s. The others migrated there about 30 years ago, not only from India, but also from Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines and Singapore. The Hindu Community in Chile comprises more than 1400 members. Among these, 400 people (90 families) lives in the Capital city Santiago.[31] Most of the Hindus in Chile are Sindhis. There is a Hindu Temple in Punta Arenas which provide services in both Sindhi and Spanish.[32]


Main article: Islam in Chile

Mosque in Coquimbo.

The statistics for Islam in Chile estimate a total Muslim population of 3,196, representing 0.02 percent of the population.

Islam has enjoyed a long history in Chile. Aurelio Díaz Meza's Chronicles of the History of Chile, one man in discoverer Diego de Almagro's expedition, a certain Pedro de Gasco, was a morisco (that is, a Moor from al-Andalus, Spain, who had been obliged to convert from Islam to Roman Catholicism). The first Islamic institution in Chile, the Muslim Union Society (Sociedad Unión Musulmana), was founded on September 25, 1926, at Santiago. The Society of Mutual Aid and Islamic Charity was established the following year, on October 16, 1927. In Chile, Islam is primarily the result of Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian migrations from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fleeing conditions in the Ottoman Empire, these Levantine immigrants and their descendants permanently settled in Chile and established the first Islamic institutions in the 1920s. [33]


Buddhism first came to Chile by way of Japanese residents of Brazil migrating to the country. Though still a relatively small percentage of the population, it has grown significantly since the 1990s with 15 different centers across the country mostly of the Zen and Tibetan schools.


Of the Chilean population, in 2020, 36% do not practice any religion.[34]

In September 2011, a group of atheists founded the Atheist Society of Chile.[35]


According to the TV program Hola Chile on La Red TV channel there are at least 130 Wiccans in the Valparaíso Region.[36] There is also the Escuela de Brujas (School of Witches) in Independencia, Santiago Metropolitan Region that caters to the educational needs of Wiccans in the capitol region.[37]


In 2016, after a four-year process, the Sikh religion received a legal status. The religion was introduced to Chile by Yogi Bhajan in the late 20th century.[38]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario 2021: Religión"
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Association Of Religion Database Archives website, Retrieved 2023-07-14
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Chile - International Religious Freedom Report 2008". United States Department of State. 19 September 2008.
  5. ^ "Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario 2017: Religión" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario 2016: Religión" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Pew Research Center Spring 2015 survey: Importance of Religion" (PDF). Pew Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Q158. How important is religion in your life?" (PNG). Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  9. ^ Memoria Chilena, Los cementerios en el siglo XIX
  10. ^ US State Dept 2022 report
  11. ^ a b c d e f International Religious Freedom Report 2017 § Chile US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
  12. ^ Freedom House website, Retrieved 2023-07-14
  13. ^ Catholics And Culture website, Retrieved 2023-07-14
  14. ^ "Track semanal de Opinión Pública 9 de Octubre 2017 Estudio Nº 195" (PDF). Plaza Pública Cadem. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  15. ^ ARDA website, Retrieved 2023-07-14| Association of Religion Data Archieves website
  16. ^ "Princeton Theological Seminary Library". Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Chile". Adventist Atlas. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  18. ^ a b c The Biggest Little Mormon Country in the World | Kristina Cordero | The Virginia Quarterly Report
  19. ^ Stocks, Hugh G. (1992), "Book of Mormon Translations", in Ludlow, Daniel H (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, pp. 213–214, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140
  20. ^ "Autobiograph of Parley P. Pratt, 1807-1857". Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  21. ^ a b c "Chile: Facts and Statistics", Newsroom, 2020. Retrieved on 22 March 2020.
  22. ^ Cox, Erin and Ellis, Joshua "Latter-day Saint leaders announce eight new temples", Fox News, 7 April 2019. Retrieved on 22 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Country information: Chile". Church News. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Elder Jorge F. Zeballos", Church News, 2020. Retrieved on 22 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Jehovah's Witnesses - 2020 Country and Territory Reports".
  26. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (14 September 2007). "International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Chile". State Department. Retrieved 8 March 2008.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "QuickLists: Most Baha'i (sic) Nations (2010)". Association of Religion Data Archives. 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  28. ^ Lamb, Artemus (November 1995). The Beginnings of the Baháʼí Faith in Latin America:Some Remembrances, English Revised and Amplified Edition. West Linn, OR: M L VanOrman Enterprises.
  29. ^ "Chile: Virtual Jewish History tour". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  30. ^ Marcos Fuentes T. (13 September 2013). "Censo: Comunidad Judía duda de las cifras sobre sus fieles - Terra Chile". Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  31. ^ Chile, Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de (9 October 2008). "Bharat Dadlani: "La comunidad hindú de Chile se siente como en casa" - Programa Asia Pacifico". Observatorio Asiapacifico (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Keeping cultures alive: Sindhis and Hindus in Chile". Hindustan Times. 2 August 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Chile has a growing Muslim community - but few know about it". Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  34. ^ "Estudio Monitoreo Post Plebiscito 2020 - 25 Octubre 2020" (PDF). Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  35. ^ "". Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  36. ^ "Brujas de Valparaíso confiesan que practican la wicca". Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via
  37. ^ "Escuela de Brujas Coven Wicca". Espacio de Luz.
  38. ^ "'We will now be protected': Sikhs get legal rights in Chile", Hindustan Times

Further reading