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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid