Website accessibility
Show or hide the menu bar

Concordat (2004) : text Concordat (2004) : text

This concordat was signed in secret in the Vatican by the Portuguese Prime Minister Barroso and only announced afterwards, (a procedure repeated by the President of Brazil in 2008). The agreement introduces a church tax (Art. 26.1) and maintains the teaching in state schools of "Catholic morality" by people appointed by the bishops but paid by the state (Art. 19).

More than 80% of the Portuguese call themselves Catholic and the Catholic Church still has a privileged place, legally covered by Article 58 of the Law on Religious Freedom (Lei da Liberdade Religiosa/LLR), which keeps in force the concordats with the Holy See : the first from 1940 and the second signed 18 May 2004 [...]. This concordat maintains the rights and special privileges assured to the Catholic Church concerning religious education, the civil effects of religious marriages and the exequatur of the decisions of Catholic courts, automatic recognition of legal entities established by the Church and fiscal exemptions. Nevertheless some modifications were introduced, like the taxes on non-pastoral activities and the individual incomes of the priests.

Besides the Concordat [...] should be mentioned [...] the traditional practice of integrating the Catholic Church with the State, notably the presence of religious symbols in places for public services, especially in schools, the celebration of religious acts through official decision or command, notably in inaugurations, the military graduation of priests as officers who ensure pastoral service in the Armed Forces and the public financing of the Catholic Church by subsidies for the construction of religious buildings and other religious initiatives. [1]

In 2011 Portugal required a massive bailout. It obtained a 78 billion euro loan from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund and also agreed to severe budget cuts and a hasty sell-off of state assets. But when it wanted to boost productivity by eliminating some holidays, it ran up against Article 30 of the concordat. The Vatican only permits permanent changes when it fears that otherwise the concordat could be scrapped. Therefore it allowed Portugal to suspend only two of the eight religious holidays, five of which are anchored in the concordat — and only for five years. [2] The government publicly thanked the Vatican and the Portuguese Bishops for this temporary concession....

Concordat with the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic

18 May 2004

The Holy See and the Portuguese Republic,

recognising that the Catholic Church and the State are, each and severally, autonomous and independent;

taking into account the deep and historical ties between the Catholic Church and Portugal and bearing in mind the reciprocal responsibilities which bind them together, within the limits of religious freedom, and for the benefit of the common good and the duty of building a society which promotes the dignity of the mankind, justice and peace;

recognising the Concordat of 7 May 1940, agreed between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic, and its application has contributed to a considerable extent in to strengthen their historical ties and consolidate the activity of the Catholic Church in Portugal for the benefit of the faithful and for the Portuguese community in general;

mindful of the need of an up-date in the light of profound changes on a national and international scale, and in particular as regards the Portuguese legal system, the new Democratic Constitution, revised provisions of European Community law and contemporary international law, and in so far as this affects the church, and the evolution of its relations with the political community;

have agreed to stipulate the following Concordat in the terms laid down:

Article 1

  1. The Holy See and the Portuguese Republic declare the commitment of the state and the Catholic Church to cooperate in promoting the dignity of mankind, justice and peace.
  2. The Portuguese Republic recognises the legal status of the Catholic Church.
  3. Relations between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic are assured through the auspices of an Apostolic Nuncio, as attaché to the Portuguese Republic, and a Portuguese Ambassador to the Holy See.

Article 2

  1. The Portuguese Republic recognises the right of the Catholic Church to carry out its apostolic mission and guarantees the public and free exercise of its activities, in particular, those of holding religious services, teaching and ministry, as well as in the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical matters.
  2. The Holy See may freely approve and publicise any rules and regulations, legal dispositions or documents relating to Church activities, and communicate without impediment with Bishops, the clergy, and the faithful, who may do the same with the Holy See.
  3. The Bishops and other ecclesiastical persons shall benefit from the same freedom as the clergy and the faithful.
  4. Religious freedom is guaranteed to the Catholic Church, its faithful and legal persons established under the norms of Canon Law, particularly as regards freedom of conscience, worship, assembly, association, the public expression of their faith, and teaching and charitable activities.

Article 3

  1. The Portuguese Republic recognises Sundays as a festive day.
  2. Other days recognised as Catholic feast days are outlined in this agreement in Article 28.
  3. The Portuguese Republic shall make provision as far as is possible that Catholics, within the terms of Portuguese law, can perform their religious obligations on festive days.

Article 4

The cooperation, as outlined in Paragraph 1, Article 1 may include activity carried out within the scope of international organisations which form part of the Holy See and the Republic of Portugal or, without prejudice to the observance of international law, with other associated organisations – bilateral or multilateral, and particularly with countries where the official language is Portuguese.

Article 5

Ecclesiastical persons may not be cross-examined by magistrates or other authorities in matters relating to facts and causes falling within matters of conscience arising from their ministry.

Article 6

Ecclesiastical persons have no obligation to assume jury duties, or become members of tribunals of the same kind, which Canon Law considers to be incompatible with their ecclesiastical status.

Article 7

The Republic of Portugal shall assure, within the terms of Portuguese law, all necessary measures to protect places of worship and clerics to exercise their ministry, as well as to avoid the illegitimate use or abuse of Catholic resources.

Article 8

The Republic of Portugal recognises the legal status of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference within the terms stated and approved by the Holy See.

Article 9

  1. The Catholic Church may freely create, modify, or disband, in accordance with the norms of Canon Law, dioceses, parishes, and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
  2. The Republic of Portugal recognises the legal status of diocese, parishes and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions on condition that the act of recognising their legal canonical status has been notified to the competent State organ.
  3. Notification of modifications and disbandment of diocese, parishes and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, recognised within the terms of the previous paragraph, shall be given to the competent State organ.
  4. The nomination and recall of Bishops shall fall within the exclusive competence of the Holy See, whose decision will be made known to the Republic of Portugal.
  5. The Holy See declares that no part of the territory of the Republic of Portugal shall belong to a Bishop whose seat is subject to a foreign power.

Article 10

  1. The Catholic Church of Portugal shall freely organise itself in accordance with the norms of Canon Law, to modify or deselect canonical legal persons whom the State has recognised as civil legal persons.
  2. The State recognises the status of legal persons in Articles 1, 8 and 9 within the respective terms indicated, as well as those also whose legal status falls within canonical jurisdiction, including those persons in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life established and notified according to Canon Law to the competent authorities by the diocesan Bishop’s seat or by his legal representatives up to the time this present Concordat comes into effect.
  3. The legal status of legal canonical persons, except those referred to in Articles 1, 8 & 9, who are appointed or shall be notified after the coming into force of this present Concordat, shall be effectuated by means of civil registration in the appropriate state register on the strength of an authentic document issued by the competent ecclesiastical authorities through which their appointment, scope of duties, the identity of the representative agencies and their respective competence shall be defined.

Article 11

  1. The legal status of canonical persons referred to in Articles 1, 8, 9 & 10 shall be subject to Canon Law and Portuguese law, applied by the respective authorities, and have the same civil competency as that accorded to other associated persons of an identical nature.
  2. Canonical or statutory limitations to the capacity of legal canonical people may be opposed by a third party in good faith on condition that it is based on the Code of Canon Law or on other norms published within the terms of Canon Law and, likewise with regard to organisations referred to in paragraph 3 of Article 10 and points mentioned therein, as per the register of canonical legal persons.

Article 12

Canonical legal persons recognised according to Article 10 who, in addition to religious aims, pursue welfare and fund-raising activities in connection with the respective activities of their legal disposition established by Portuguese law, shall enjoy rights and benefits accorded to [legal]persons of private associations whose scope is of the same nature.

Article 13

  1. The State of Portugal recognises the validity of civil marriages celebrated according to Canon Law on condition that the act of marriage has been registered in the appropriate state register.
  2. Wedding bans should be published not only in the respective parish churches but also in the competent registry office.
  3. Weddings conducted on the point of death, at the point of childbirth, or requiring immediate celebration on the express authority of an Ordinary in serious cases of a moral nature may be contracted independently of the prior publishing of bans.
  4. The parish priest shall pass on an unabridged copy of the marriage [record] within three days of the act to the competent register office for the purposes of registration: the transcription must be made within two days and communicated by the respective parish official within the day immediately following that on which it was transcribed, with a note of the date.
  5. Without prejudice to the obligations mentioned in paragraph 4 above, in cases of a breach of the regulations the official responsible under the provisions made in Portuguese law and in canon law, the marriage parties may request an immediate transcription by means of presenting a complete copy of the marriage contract.

Article 14

  1. Canon Law marriage shall assume all civil effects from the date of its celebration if the transcription of the marriage shall be effectuated within seven days. If this does not take place, it shall assume the effects when a third person shall give notice of the marriage from the date of its transcription.
  2. The death of either or both parties to the marriage shall not be an impediment to registration.

Article 15

  1. By celebrating canonical marriage, the married couple shall in front of the Church assume the obligation to hold to Canon Law norms which regulate it and, in particular, to respect the essential properties of canonical marriage.
  2. The Holy See, reaffirming the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of the marriage bond, shall remind the married couple that they have a canonical marriage contract, the grave duty of which is that it is incumbent upon them not to avail themselves of the civil facility of requesting a divorce.

Article 16

  1. The decisions of the competent ecclesiastical authorities regarding the nullity of a marriage and the pontifical dispensation of a marriage ratified but not consummated, subjected to verification by a superior ecclesiastical body, shall have civil consequences at the request of either party, after revision and confirmation within the terms of Portuguese law and by the competent tribunal of the State.
  2. To this end, the competent tribunal shall verify:
    a. that the claims are authentic
    b. that they have gone through the competent tribunal
    c. that the principles evidence and counter-evidence have been equally respected
    d. that the results do not contradict the principles of the public international order of the Portuguese State.

Article 17

  1. The Republic of Portugal guarantees the freedom to worship by offering help to members of the Armed Forces and Security Forces upon request also by exercising relevant acts of worship.
  2. The Catholic Church assures, according to norms of Canon Law and under the auspices of a military ordinary’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction, religious assistance to members of the Armed Forces and the Security Forces upon request.
  3. The competent State and ecclesiastic authorities may establish, by agreed means, the form and organisation of religious assistance to those mentioned in the paragraphs above.
  4. Ecclesiastical persons may fulfil their military obligations by offering Catholic religious assistance to the Armed and Security Forces, provided their right of conscience is respected.

Article 18

The Republic of Portugal guarantees the Catholic Church the free exercise of religious assistance to persons forcibly interned for reasons of care, assistance, corrective education or similar, or detention in jail or similar institutions, and under normal conditions, the right to religious freedom and anyone demanding the same.

Article 19

  1. The Republic of Portugal, in keeping with an ethos of religious freedom and the duty which behoves the State to cooperate with parents in the up-bringing of their children, guarantees the conditions necessary to ensure, within the terms of Portuguese law, the teaching of Religion and Catholic Morality in public educational institutions at the secondary level, without any form of discrimination.
  2. The frequency of Religious and Catholic Moral Teaching in public secondary institutions shall depend on the expressed declaration of the interested parties or, in the absence of their legal capacity, of their parents or legal representative.
  3. In no case may the teaching of Religion and Catholic Morality be carried out by persons not deemed to be fitting by the competent ecclesiastical authority, who shall certify the nominated person within terms provided for by Portuguese law and Canon Law.
  4. Teachers of the Religion and Catholic Morality shall be appointed or taken on subject to contractual employment, transferred or withdrawn from carrying out their teaching duties on behalf of the State by the agreement with the competent ecclesiastical authority.
  5. 5. The definition and content of the teaching of Religion and Catholic Morality falls within the exclusive competence of ecclesiastical authorities, in keeping with the general orientation of the Portuguese educational system.

Article 20

  1. The Republic of Portugal recognises the right of the Catholic Church to establish seminaries and other forms of training and religious culture.
  2. The internal organisation of training institutions and religious culture are not subjected to State control.
  3. The recognition of civil effects of study, of grades and certificates obtained in training institutions and establishments of religious culture regulated by Portuguese law shall be respected, without any form of discrimination, as equivalent to studies of an identical nature.

Article 21

  1. The Republic of Portugal guarantees the Catholic Church and to legal canonical persons recognised under the provisions of Articles 8 to 10 within the scope of the freedom to teach, the right to found and run schools of education and training of all levels in accordance with Portuguese law, without being subjected to any form of discrimination.
  2. The grades, qualifications, and diplomas obtained in schools, as outlined in the previous paragraph, shall be recognised within the terms laid down by Portuguese law for schools of a similar nature and quality.
  3. The Catholic University of Portugal, erected by the Holy See on 13 October 1967 and recognised by the Portuguese State on 15 July 1971 shall carry out its own activities in accordance with Portuguese law within the preceding terms in accordance with its specific institutional nature.

Article 22

  1. The immovable property, as designated by Article VI of the Concordat of 7 May 1940, classified as ‘national monuments’ or as ‘of public interest’ shall remain in the permanent service of the Church. Their conservation, reparation and restoration shall fall to the State and works carried out will be according to a plan established by mutual agreement with ecclesiastical authority, to avoid disturbing religious usage: the custody and internal running of the church shall fall to the Catholic Church, especially as regards visiting times, which an official nominated by the State to direct times, may intervene in.
  2. Objects designated for religious worship and kept in State museums and other public institutions are to be on permanent loan for religious ceremonies in the church to which they belong, if these objects are located on the same premises in which the said objects are securely kept. Such concessions shall be made upon request by the competent ecclesiastical authority, who shall have care of the custody of the loaned objects, and who shall have the responsibility for their safe keeping.
  3. In other cases, and for justifiable motives, a responsible officer of the State and the Church may grant a temporary concession for religious objects to be used in their respective place of origin or in another suitable place.

Article 23

  1. The Republic of Portugal and the Catholic Church declare their duty of protection, appreciation and enjoyment of both moveable and immovable goods which are the property of the Catholic Church or of recognised legal canonical persons which is an integral part of the cultural property of Portugal.
  2. The Republic of Portugal shall recognise that the true purpose of ecclesiastical property shall be safeguarded by Portuguese law, without in any way detracting from their other purposes as objects of cultural value, and respecting the principle of cooperation.
  3. The competent authorities of the Republic of Portugal and those of the Catholic Church agree to create a bilateral Commission for the promotion of cooperation regarding property of the Church which constitutes an integral part of the cultural heritage of Portugal.
  4. The Commission mentioned in the previous paragraph shall have the duty to promote the protection, appreciation, and enjoyment of Church property, and the particular help of the State and other public bodies for the necessary processes of identification, maintenance, security, restoration and functioning, without any form of discrimination in relation to similar property whose duty it is of the said Commission to promote, whenever possible, within the stipulations set out in Article 28’.

Article 24

  1. No church, edifice, annex, or object assigned for Catholic worship may be demolished, occupied, re-sited, altered, or designated by the State and other public bodies for any other ends, without the prior agreement of the competent ecclesiastical authority and for urgent reasons of public necessity.
  2. Consultation with the competent ecclesiastical authorities in cases of requisition or expropriation for public use shall always be made, and also in cases of mounting indemnity. In either case, no act of appropriation or non-religious use shall be made without the property being divested of its religious character.
  3. The competent ecclesiastical authority has the right to prior consultation when necessary restorations or when the process of making an inventory or classification as cultural property is undertaken.

Article 25

  1. The Republic of Portugal declares its duty to allocate space for religious ends.
  2. Authorities for territorial planning shall provide places designated for religious purposes.
  3. The Catholic Church and legal ecclesiastical persons have the right to prior consultation, to exercise within the terms of Portuguese law, as regards decisions about the designation of spaces for religious purposes by the territorial planning authorities.

Article 26

  1. The Holy See, the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and also other juridical canonical persons appointed by competent ecclesiastical authorities for the pursuance of religious ends, once their civil status is recognised under the terms of Articles 9 & 10 shall not be subjected to any tax on:
    a. offerings of believers made in the exercise of worship and rites
    b. donations given for the pursuance of religious ends
    c. public collections received for religious ends
    d. the free distribution of publications containing declarations, notices, or instructions on religious matters and their display in places of worship.
  2. The Holy See, the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and also other juridical canonical persons appointed by competent ecclesiastical authorities for the pursuance of religious ends, for which their legal civil status is recognised as set out in Articles 9 & 10, are exempt from any form of tax or general payment, regional or local, on:
    a. places of worship and other immovable property or parts of them specifically designated for religious purposes
    b. installations in the direct and exclusive service of activities with a religious purpose
    c. seminaries or other such institutions designated for ecclesiastical training or for the teaching of the Catholic religion
    d. annexes or adjuncts of immovable properties described in the previous clauses (a) to (c) used by private institutions offering social solidarity [social services].
    e. gardens and spaces in front of immovable properties as described in points (a) to (d) above, when not destined for profit-making ends
    f. moveable property of a religious nature forming an integral part of immovable property, as mentioned in previous clauses, or their accessories.
  3. The Holy See, the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and also other juridical canonical persons appointed by competent ecclesiastical authorities for the pursuance of religious ends, once the legal civil status is recognised as set out in Articles 9 & 10, are exempt from revenue stamp and from all taxes relative to the transference of goods which might affect:
    a. large purchases of immovable property for religious purposes
    b. any acquisition made free of charge of property for religious purposes
    c. deeds for the institution of foundations, once registered in the appropriate State register within the scope of Article 10 above.
  4. The ecclesiastical authority responsible for foundations destined for the Catholic Church in the terms laid out in the following Article, is exempt from any tax on the aforementioned origin of revenue.
  5. Legal ecclesiastical persons cited in the previous paragraphs, when carrying out their activities for purposes other than religious, and considered to be such by Portuguese law, namely, amongst others, those of social solidarity [social services], educational and cultural activities, as well as commercial and profitable activities, shall be subject to the usual fiscal arrangements which apply to their respective activities.
  6. The Republic of Portugal assures that donations given to legal canonical persons, outlined in previous paragraphs and to whose legal civil status is recognised within the framework of this Concordat shall make a tax contributions in the form of an income tax return within the terms and limits of Portuguese law.

Article 27

  1. The Bishops’ Conference of Portugal shall exercise the right to include the Catholic Church in the system of collecting of tax revenues as provided for in Portuguese law.
  2. The inclusion of the Catholic Church in the system as outlined in the previous paragraph shall be the object of a mutual agreement between the competent bodies of the Republic of Portugal and the competent ecclesiastical authorities.

Article 28

The contents of this present Concordat may be developed through agreements laid down by the Catholic Church and the Republic of Portugal.

Article 29

  1. The Holy See and the Republic of Portugal shall convene to create within the scope of this present Concordat and by way of developing the principle of cooperation, a Joint Committee.
  2. The tasks of the Joint Committee noted above shall be:
    a. to find a mutually agreeable solution in cases of doubt to problems of interpreting this Concordat
    b. to suggest any other measures for the better execution of this Concordat

Article 30

Given that it was not stipulated in Article 3, the Republic of Portugal shall recognise the following feast days: New Year’s Day and the Day of the Most Holy Mother of God (1 January); Corpus Domini, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August); All Saints’ Day (1 November); Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December); Christmas (25 December).

Article 31

Existing juridical provisions and those drawn up as the basis for the Concordat of 7 May 1940 and of the Missionary Agreement remain unaltered.

Article 32

  1. The Holy See and the Republic of Portugal shall continue to work through, revise, and publicise legislation complimentary to this agreement as becomes necessary.
  2. In view of the statement of the previous paragraph, the Holy See and the Republic of Portugal shall carry out reciprocal consultations.

Article 33

The present Concordat shall come into effect upon the exchange of letters [“instruments”] of ratification, supplanting the Concordat of 7 May 1940.

Signed in triplicate authentic copies in Italian and Portuguese in the presence of witnesses on 18 May 2004.

For the Holy See – Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State

For the Republic of Portugal – José Manuel Durão Barroso, Prime Minister of Portugal


Concordato tra la Santa Sede e la Repubblica Portoghese (18 maggio 2004)
Concordata entre a Santa Sé e a República Portuguesa (18 maio 2004)

Translated from the Italian by Dr. David Holohan 



1. Manuel Malheiros, Executive summary, Religion/Portugal, European Commission Report [on the implementation of anti-discrimination laws], 21-06-2004. (translated)

2. "Portugal cancels holidays after Vatican talks", CNN, 9 May 2012.

"Portugal scraps four public holidays in austerity drive", BBC News, 8 May 2012.

Go to Notanant menuWebsite accessibility

Access level: public

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies: OK