Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

More-secular Poland marks Pope John Paul's death

 A Catholic prays at the bronze statue of the late Pope John Paul II at a church in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, March 31,  2010. Poland's Catholics a...
 Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, right, a longtime friend and personal secretary of the late Pope John Paul II, takes part in a Good Friday procession in ...

Poland After John Paul II

A Catholic prays at the bronze statue of the late Pope John Paul II at a church in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Poland's Catholics a...

Poland Remembering John Paul

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, right, a longtime friend and personal secretary of the late Pope John Paul II, takes part in a Good Friday procession in ...

Believers clutching rosaries gathered before sunrise on Good Friday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Polish pontiff John Paul II's death, alongside a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion.
An actor playing Jesus buckling under the weight of a cross as brown-robed friars and other faithful followed him in the rain. Most of the hundreds of faithful at the southern Polish pilgrimage site of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska were elderly, a sign of Poland's slow but significant move away from the church five years after John Paul's death.
Poland remains perhaps the most religiously observant country in Europe and churches are still packed, but they are slightly less full every year, with studies showing the numbers of those who attend regularly are on a slow decline, said sociologist Edmund Wnuk-Lipinskia professor and the dean of Collegium Civitas, a Warsaw university.
The number of Polish men starting study programs to become priests and monks fell from 1,500 to 953 between 2004, the year before the pope's death, and 2008, according to church figures.
Shopping malls seem to have as many people as pews on Sunday mornings, and openly gay couples can be seen more in public, an extremely rare sight during John Paul's lifetime.
John Paul was elected pope in 1978 and played a pivotal role in Polish history, inspiring the birth of Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement that helped bring down communism, raising spirits during a martial law crackdown in the 1980s and bolstering the Polish church as it supported the democracy struggle.
His warmth and charisma also won him great affection in his homeland, and teenagers across this country of 38 million considered him a role model.
In Warsaw Friday night, a Way of the Cross procession will culminate at Warsaw's Pilsudski Square, where the newly elected John Paul delivered a Mass in 1979 in which he subtly challenged the communist leadership and inspired the anti-communist movement. The re-enactment of the crucifixion will take place on that spot in the evening with the faithful to mark the moment _ 9:37 p.m. _ when John Paul died.
But the pro-church Gazeta Polska weekly lamented on Wednesday that "10 years ago it was the Holy Father who was the main authority for school children, after their parents. But, in a survey last year, television stars ranked at the top."
Some worry that Poland, which is growing increasingly wealthy, will start to resemble other traditionally Catholic countries, like France and Spain, where church attendance is much lower.
"In Europe, churches are becoming increasingly empty," said Kazimierz Kik, a political scientist with Kielce University. "It is possible that Poland will be the very last country where churches will become empty, but still you can see the process of gradual secularization here, especially among young people and chiefly among those who travel to the West."
For now, Poland's Catholics remain strongly attached to the church, which has preserved Polish culture and kept up spirits over centuries of foreign domination.
John Paul remains a highly revered figure and his successor Benedict is more popular here than in his German homeland. The clerical sex abuse scandal rocking the U.S. and Europe has not touched Poland in a significant way, getting little media attention and sparking almost no public debate.
An opinion poll by the CBOS institute last week showed that 68 percent of Poland's 38 million citizens have a positive view of the Catholic church, a five point increase over September; 23 percent have a negative opinion.
Conservative moral values also still hold sway, with a different poll, by GfK Polonia, showing last week that 80 percent of Poles oppose homosexual marriage and that a majority supports the country's restrictive abortion laws. Both polls have margins of error of about plus or minus 3 percentage points.
_____
Associated Press writer Katarzyna Mala in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-31 09:42 GMT+08:00