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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More