Croatia is predominantly Catholic with few traditional religious groups and a wide spectrum of smaller religious communities spread through the country. Religious life started to flourish again after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia and Croatian independence in 1991 and after decades of repression, especially against the Catholic Church, which was also the bearer of national identity and a sign of resistance towards the Communist regime. Historically, on the Croatian soil the Catholic Church has been the most important religious community as the last Catholic outpost before Byzantium and Islam (antemurale christianitatis). During the 20th century the Catholic Church was repressed firstly in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia; despite the fact that almost 40% of its population was Catholic, a concordat with the Holy See was not signed, while other traditional communities concluded that kind of arrangements. During the Second World War, the Catholic Church was again under pressure and the majority of Croatian clergy did their best to help people and minorities, especially Jews. 


Former Yugoslavia was very much against religion and new winds which came after the fall of the Berlin Wall brought religious freedoms to the newborn state. Croatia has signed four international treaties with the Holy See and those agreements provided the pattern for the stipulation of agreements with other religious communities

The Serbian Orthodox Church, the Islamic and Jewish communities as well as few other traditional religious groups were recognized automatically, and all other religious groups which have more than 500 members and exist as legal entities can be recognized according to the State’s major legislation in the field, the Law on Legal Status of Religious Communities. The State concluded numerous contracts on questions of mutual interest with many religious groups, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, and Protestant. All of them have access to public institutions like schools, hospitals or penitentiaries and religious education is guaranteed for all the children whose parents opt to include it in the school curriculum (although this is obviously many times unfeasible for logistic  reasons). Religious communities enjoy tax privileges and are also funded from the State budget according to the number of believers. The Islamic community in Croatia which was recognized as an official religion in 1914 (only two years after Islam recognition in Austria), is well integrated and Islamic leaders often state that the way in which the Islamic community is accepted and treated in Croatia could become a model for other countries.


Religious freedom in Croatia is highly respected and this could be a ‘Croatian export product’. Most religious groups endorse the models of relation with the state that have been developed for the Catholic Church and seek a space within that framework for themselves. Croatian constitution prescribes the separation of Church and State and guarantees equality of religious communities and freedom of religious life, but does not exclude cooperation: the State relies on the activities of religious communities and recognizes their importance for social cohesion through the vertical dialogue with the state and the horizontal dialogue which flows between religious communities themselves. 

              Vanja-Ivan Savić




General information on minority issues (including some references to religious or belief ones) can be found at the page devoted to Croatia in Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. 

Information on the registered religious communities can be found at Register of Religious Communities in Croatia. 

The text of the “Law on legal position of religious communities” (2002) can be found at 

An analysis of State-religions relations is provided by 

D. Mujadžević, Status of Religious Communities (Croatia), in J.S. Nielsen and others (eds.), Annotated Legal Documents on Islam in Europe Online, 2019

V. I. Savić, Law and religion in Croatia, in G. Robbers (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2019, pp. 239-263.

V. I. Savić, It works better if it is not too secularised: the Croatian constitutional model for regulating state–church relations, in P.T. Babie, N.G. Rochow, B.G. Scharffs (eds.), Freedom of Religion or Belief. Creating the Constitutional Space for Fundamental Freedoms, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020, pp. 206-282.

V. I. Savić, Still Fighting God in the Public Arena: Does Europe Pursue the Separation of Religion and State Too Devoutly or Is It Saying It Does Without Really Meaning It?, in Brigham Young University Law Review, 2015, pp. 679-726.

F. Staničić, The Legal Status of Religious Communities in Croatian Law, in Selected Papers of the Zagreb Law School, vol. 62, n. 2, 2014, pp. 225-254.

S. Zrinščak, D. Marinović Jerolimov, A. Marinović, B. Ančić, Church and State in Croatia: Legal Framework, Religious Instruction, and Social Expectations, in S. O. Ramet (ed.), Religion and politics in post-socialist central and southeastern Europe: challenges since 1989, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 131-154.



Data source: Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim, eds., World Religion Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed August 2021)
Religion Pop 2020 RM Pct% 2020 Total Pop.
Christian Ortodox 230.000 1.41%  
Jehovah's Witnesses 4.737 0.02%  
Jews 813 1.89%  
Muslims 77.420 0.12%  
Protestants 34.500 5.60%