This introductory chapter provides a historical sketch of the emergence of Italian liberty. In the republics of the late Middle Ages, in the Risorgimento, and in the struggle against fascism, Italian liberty was the work of religious men and women. Many of them possessed a sincere Christian faith, often quite distant from or in stark contrast with the teaching of the Catholic Church; others did not believe in any revealed religion but instead were believers and apostles—sometimes martyrs—of a religion they called a “religion of duty” or “religion of liberty.” Both the former and the latter people, regardless of the theological content of their convictions, were religious because they lived their lives as a mission—that is, with devotion to the ideal of liberty.
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