News / Europe

Could John Paul II Sainthood Stem Polish Secularization?

Could John Paul II Sainthood Stem Polish Secularization?i
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 25, 2014 10:32 PM
On Sunday, the late Pope John Paul II will be canonized in a ceremony at the Vatican along with an earlier pope, John XXIII. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports from Krakow, Poland, on the excitement among Polish Catholics and the hope that the new Polish saint will help the prevent the country from following a Western European-style path toward secularization.
Could John Paul II Sainthood Stem Polish Secularization?
A few drops of the late Pope John Paul II's blood inspired passionate devotion from his followers, who lined up this week to kiss a golden reliquary containing it at the John Paul II Sanctuary.
 
The cathedral-like shrine, built on the outskirts of Krakow after his death in 2005, is hosting a week of prayer services and vigils leading up to the canonization of the Polish pope on Sunday at the Vatican.
 
The first day's event prominently featured the Knights of John Paul II, who presided over the blood-kissing ceremony.

"We have a chance to touch some part of the sanctity," explained Krzysztof Wasowski, the leader of the order, which is only open to men who are not divorced and live by the tenets of the religion.
 
John Paul II will be canonized in a ceremony at the Vatican along with a previous pope, John XXIII.  But the latter is hardly mentioned in Poland, where there is intense excitement among Catholics.  Their leaders hope the new Polish saint will help prevent the country from following a Western European-style path of secularization.
 
Archbishop of Kraków, and former John Paul II's secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz (r) kisses the coffin of late Pope John Paul II ahead of the beatification ceremony, April 29, 2011 (Jerome Socolovsky /VOA)Archbishop of Kraków, and former John Paul II's secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz (r) kisses the coffin of late Pope John Paul II ahead of the beatification ceremony, April 29, 2011 (Jerome Socolovsky /VOA)
x
Archbishop of Kraków, and former John Paul II's secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz (r) kisses the coffin of late Pope John Paul II ahead of the beatification ceremony, April 29, 2011 (Jerome Socolovsky /VOA)
Archbishop of Kraków, and former John Paul II's secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz (r) kisses the coffin of late Pope John Paul II ahead of the beatification ceremony, April 29, 2011 (Jerome Socolovsky /VOA)
Also at the first Mass, a remembrance was offered by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II's secretary and knew him well.

​"He was a person who loved God and through God he loved every single person," he said in an interview afterward with VOA.
 
Poland is one of the most religious nations in Europe, and the late pope formerly known as Karol Wojtyla is a national hero.
 
As cardinal of Krakow, he supported the workers at the old Lenin steelworks in the Nowa Huta district in the east of the city, when they demanded a place to worship God in their supposed Communist paradise.  The authorities' initial refusal to allow them to erect even a cross triggered riots.
 
A grandmother and granddaughter look up at a statue of Pope John Paul II at the Ark of the Lord church in Krakow, Apr. 23, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)A grandmother and granddaughter look up at a statue of Pope John Paul II at the Ark of the Lord church in Krakow, Apr. 23, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
x
A grandmother and granddaughter look up at a statue of Pope John Paul II at the Ark of the Lord church in Krakow, Apr. 23, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
A grandmother and granddaughter look up at a statue of Pope John Paul II at the Ark of the Lord church in Krakow, Apr. 23, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
Marian Kordaszewski helped build the Ark of the Lord Church - a soaring boat-like structure - with his bare hands, and he remembers Wojtyla's visits.
 
"He was angel in a human body, he was just good to the core," Kordaszewski recalled.
 
A society in transition

The ghost of John Paul II is all over Krakow, from the modernist church in Nowa Huta to the episcopal palace downtown, where he would talk to the crowds from a window above the entrance.  Also from the house where he lived and met with his underground theater troupe, to the Jagiellonian University where he studied linguistics.
 
A group of elementary schoolchildren visiting the university fondly talked about the late "papierz" and what it means to be Catholic.
 
But Poland is a society in transition, and Magdalena Kozak, who is attending an academic conference at the linguistics department, thinks secularization cannot be stopped.
 
"Because the whole world is going this way!" she said.  "Because we are getting more and more open to other cultures."
 
Every 22nd of the month since Pope John Paul II's death, people in Krakow have been holding a vigil, hoping he would be canonized, April 22, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)Every 22nd of the month since Pope John Paul II's death, people in Krakow have been holding a vigil, hoping he would be canonized, April 22, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
x
Every 22nd of the month since Pope John Paul II's death, people in Krakow have been holding a vigil, hoping he would be canonized, April 22, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
Every 22nd of the month since Pope John Paul II's death, people in Krakow have been holding a vigil, hoping he would be canonized, April 22, 2014. (Jerome Socolovsky/VOA)
Olga Gorska, a 33-year-old Warsaw lawyer visiting Krakow with her German boyfriend, finds the veneration of John Paul to be exaggerated.
 
"I do not want to say that he is too much worshipped, but there is a kind of cult of him," she said.  
 
The ceremonies at the John Paul II shrine will culiminate with an all-night vigil on Saturday and Mass on Sunday, following a live transmission of the canonization ceremony from Rome.
 
But judging from the faces of the people attending the ceremonies earlier this week - and of those at other churches in Krakow in the past few days - the late pope's most devoted followers are aging.  Preserving the church's influence in Poland may be a lot to ask, even of a saint.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs