Cities in POLAND
About 97% of the population is Roman Catholic. Approx. 1.5% belong to the Russian Orthodox Church and 0.5% are Protestants, most of whom are Lutherans. There are also about 80,000 Old Catholics. Most church buildings of the Russian Orthodox are found in the east of the country.
The number of Jews, 10% of the population in 1939, was only 1,300 in 1993.
With Christianization in 966, Poland became the easternmost Catholic country in Europe and a close bond between church and state developed. It was remarkable that in the many wars that the Poles fought, religion hardly played a role. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Poland was also spared bloody religious disputes.
The Roman Catholic Church in Poland is organized in the archdioceses of Gniezno, Krakow, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw, plus two archdioceses outside Polish territory, Lwow and Vilnius, and 21 dioceses. The Primate of Poland is the Archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno (the oldest diocese). During the communist regime, the church thrived against oppression. In 1950, 1956 and 1972, church and state signed agreements, whereby the church accepted the regime and the state gave guarantees for ecclesiastical administration and Catholic education.
After the overthrow of communism, the separation of church and state is still not nearly as self-evident as in many other countries. On the contrary, the influence of the Catholic Church is still enormous in Poland in the social sphere as well.
The visit of Pope John Paul II to his homeland in June 1979 strengthened the position of the Church in relation to the government. In May 1989 a new agreement was reached whereby the church was fully legally recognized. The accord established the independence of the church and freedom of religion. In addition, the Church was entitled to its own schools and media.
His visit to Poland in June 1979 was of great importance to the population and society in general. It made the people aware of the power of the masses and the Polish question was once again brought to international attention. Wojtyla's election as Pope in 1978 also provided tremendous support for the opposition, especially the trade union "Solidarity". The Church also helped many political prisoners and their families, and many clergy took an active part in the resistance. That the government was completely out of touch with the position of the Church was evident when the popular Warsaw opposition priest Jerzy Popieluszko was murdered in 1994 by members of the Polish security service.
Church life in Catholic Poland is still alive and kicking and Sunday masses are often packed. Baptism, Communion and Confirmation are still the highlights of most Poles' lives. Catholic holidays and pilgrimages continue to be extremely popular.
Most of the traditions and customs in Poland are linked to the Christian holidays.
A famous example of the intense religious experience of the Poles is the annual pilgrimage held in August to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, even considered the symbolic queen of Poland. This 14th-century image attracts 1.5 million worshipers and tourists every year. The ten-day pilgrimage tour starts in Warsaw and finally ends in Czetochowa. Another pilgrimage destination is the “Polish Calvary Mountains”, with as accurate as possible recreations of the mountain in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.
John Paul II
Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice on May 18, 1920 and died on April 2, 2005 at the age of 84. On October 16, 1978, the then Archbishop of Kraków was elected Pope John Paul II. He was the first non-Italian leader of the Catholic Church since 1523.
Dydynski, K. / Poland
Hus, M. / Polen
Wijnands, S. / Polen
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated November 2023
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