- As long as the Portuguese Inquisition was active, few non-Catholics resided in the country. Any person discovered to be a Protestant—and possession of a Bible was a certain sign—could be arrested, jailed, and threatened with execution by the Inquisition, especially before 1760. After the extinction of the Inquisition by 1821, a few Protestant missions arrived during the 1840s and 1850s. Evangelical Christian missionaries became active, especially British Protestants who came to travel or reside in, as well as to distribute bibles to Portugal. These included the celebrated British writer, traveler, and missionary, George Borrow, whose book The Bible in Spain in the mid-19th century became a classic.Even after the Inquisition ceased operations, restrictions on non-Catholics remained. Despite the small number of initial converts, there were active denominations in the 19th century among the Plymouth Brethren, Scotch Presbyterians, Methodists, and Anglicans. Some Protestant missions were founded in Portugal, as well as in her African colonies in the 1870s and 1880s. Among the legal restrictions against Protestants and other non-Catholics were those on building edifices that physically resembled churches, limits on property-owning and hours of worship, laws that prevented non-Catholic organizations from legal recognition by the government, discrimination against Protestant denominations with pacifist convictions, and discrimination against Protestants in conscription (the draft) selection. In the 1950s and 1960s, the middle to late years of the Estado Novo regime, small groups of Pentecostals, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses settled in Portugal, and the numbers of their congregations grew more rapidly than those of earlier arrivals, but traditional restrictions against freedom of worship continued.After the Revolution of 25 April 1974 and the 1976 Constitution, such restrictions against Protestant worship and residence ended. Protestant churches were now recognized as legal entities with the right to assemble and to worship. During the period when military conscription was in force, that is, up to 2004, those Protestants who were conscientious objectors could apply for alternative military service. Protestant missionary activity, nevertheless, continued to experience resistance from the Catholic Church. In recent decades, there has been a rapid growth among the Protestant communities, although their expansion in Portugal does not equal the growth in Protestant numbers found in Brazil and Angola. By the early 1990s, the number of Protestants was estimated to be between 50,000 and 60,000 persons, but by 2008 this figure had more than doubled. The number still remained at only 2 percent of the population with religious affiliation.
Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. by Douglas L. Wheeler . 2014.
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