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The origins of Scientology are closely aligned with many of Europe's philosophical traditions. Although Scientology shares much in common with Eastern religions such as Buddhism, the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, also paid tribute to the great philosophers, religious leaders and scientists of old Europe: Socrates and Plato; Galileo and Thomas Aquinas; Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Herbert Spencer, and many others. Morever, some of the most important events in the development of the religion took place in Europe.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Europe now stands as a major centre of Scientology activity, with hundreds of churches and missions and dozens of organisations carrying out social betterment programmes based on Mr. Hubbard's discoveries.
Scientology has been steadily expanding in Europe for nearly half a century. The first Church of Scientology was founded by a group of Scientologists in Los Angeles in 1954, and soon thereafter, groups and other Church organisations quickly appeared across the globe.
Mr. Hubbard travelled throughout the continent for much of that decade, conducting research and holding seminars to release his continued new discoveries about the mind and spirit. He opened a Scientology organisation in Dublin in 1956 and then established the worldwide headquarters of Scientology in England at Saint Hill near East Grinstead, Sussex, in 1959. Although few of the materials of Scientology were translated in its formative years, that did not stop news about Scientology from spreading like wildfire. People fascinated by the effective help they gained from the principles and practices of Scientology soon started forming Scientology groups in different parts of Europe.
French Scientologists founded the Church of Scientology of Paris as early as October 1959. In Copenhagen in June 1968, the Church of Scientology of Denmark was established - and was to become the seat of the European mother church for the Scientology religion. It was soon followed by Churches of Scientology in both Goteborg and Stockholm, Sweden.
New Era Publications, the organisation responsible for translating and publishing Scientology materials throughout all of Europe, Africa and Asia, was established in Copenhagen that same year. Thus Denmark became the major European centre for the Church, a status reinforced in 1970 with the establishment in Copenhagen of the Church's European headquarters for the ecclesiastical administration of Scientology.
Meanwhile, the religion continued to expand throughout the rest of Europe. Scientologists opened the first groups in Germany and Greece in 1969, and in Belgium in 1972. They founded a church in Vienna in March 1971 and another in Amsterdam the following year. In 1978, churches were established in Switzerland and Italy, while the Church of Scientology of Belgium came into being in March 1980.
The Church of Scientology in Milan became one of the largest churches of Scientology in the world. Its large congregation is tended to by more than 200 ministers and staff. In November 2000, this Church moved to vastly expanded quarters, and more than 3,000 citizens of Milan - religious and civic leaders, members of city councils and government officials, as well as the vice president of the Italian Parliament - celebrated its grand opening.
Growing, too, was the Church of Scientology in Denmark. To meet the increased interest in Scientology in Europe, the facility was vastly expanded and fully renovated in 1995.
There had been one problem, though, highlighted in an interview with Mr. Hubbard in 1966. The reporter asked him how far Scientology had grown in its first years. "All through the civilized world," he had replied, "but not behind the Iron Curtain... the one thing that a nation that is determined to make men into slaves does not want anything to do with is a science which makes man totally free." But with the iron curtain no longer in place, Scientology is expanding at breathtaking speed. In addition to two large churches of Scientology in Moscow and St. Petersburg, there are today 109 Scientology missions throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Today, the worldwide expansion of the Scientology religion is unparalleled, expressed by more than 3,700 Churches, missions and groups ministering to millions of parishioners in 156 countries and 54 languages.
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