Poland's roman Catholic Church, the only one to thrive in Communist of Eastern Europe, is still the country's largest and strongest national institution.
Poland's roman Catholic Church, the only one to thrive in Communist of Eastern Europe, is still the country's largest and strongest national institution. It remains one of Europe's three strongest, alongside Italy and Spain.
SYNOPSIS: Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War. But most of its churches have been reconstructed together with many other buildings of historical value. They are considered an important part of the nation's heritage and the post-war Communist regime of Poland had no choice but to provide money for the reconstruction. About 93 per cent of the Polish population are Roman Catholic.
Wherever the Communist authority failed to assist - members of a parish will protect their church in the best way they can - even if there are only ruins of what once was a place of worship. Money is collected for construction of new churches. Over four hundred churches were built in Poland in the last five years with the money collected by the Catholics.
Even now, more than 100 new churches are under construction throughout the country. Poland now has more priests than before the Second World War.
Mr. Edward Gierek, the Polish Communist party leader since 1970, has abandoned confrontation with the church as a proven failure.
This is largely because the Polish Roman Catholic Church is a national institution bridging the cultural gulf between today and the past. When Poland was overrun, split, occupied or plagued by poverty, the Church stood as the central unifying force, a rallying point, spiritual and cultural reserve into which Poles could retreat.
And after over thirty years of Communist rule in Poland the churches are still full of worshippers -- the old and the young who take part in a big beat mass in the Saint Michael's church in Warsaw.
Part of an agreement between the powerful Polish Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and party leader, Gierek, on co-existence is that the Cardinal will not touch directly on political matters. But merely by being a large organised body dedicated to a spiritual doctrine which is the antithesis of Marxism, the Catholic Church is also regarded by many as a political opposition to the totalitarian Communist regime.
And the Roman Catholic Church in Poland also claims that of the two and half million members of the Polish Communist Party -- about sixty per cent are Catholic and that secretly, they still adhere to the religion.