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Roman Catholic Poland, how did this happen - why not Orthodox?


DomPolski 7 | 33  
10 Dec 2007 /  #1
I haven't read much of the Polish/Slavic history buts it's starting to interest me now at 15 and was wondering why we are one of the only Slavic Nations that took up Roman Catholicism when most nations are Orthodox? How did this happen etc.?

Thanks.
celinski 31 | 1,258  
10 Dec 2007 /  #2
I am Roman Catholic Pole. We were not included in the holocaust, this is what we went throught in eastern Poland in 1940. Carol
omniba  
14 Dec 2007 /  #3
From the very beginning of Christianity there has always been an endeavour to spread the Word, baptise and enlarge the group of faithful.
At one point however the Church itself split into the Church of the west (under the guidance of Roman bishops and the Pope) and the Church of the East (see. Byzantium) which would eventually be called the Orthodox Church.

There were missionaries from both these groups moving further and further afield to convert the pagans. The ones who reached what was to become Poland happened to come from the Roman (Western) Church.

The first king of Poland then used Christianity as a unifying element (first little link between religion and politics) to bring all the tribes together and make one strong nation – this was officially done in 966 with the Baptism of Poland - so, uniquely, the State actually arrives with the official religion.

Poland has always looked West rather than East for influence and alliances. This, plus the fact that the East was often the source of invasions and trouble (Cossacks, Mongols, Tartars etc. etc.) helped to entrench the Western version of the faith even more.

Being in an unusually difficult geographical position (it is often said that only the Poles would be mad enough to choose that location for their country) with nigh-on indefensible borders, the country was at constant risk from invasions and attacks. It is a well known fact that when the going gets really tough, people – sometimes even non-believers – turn to God, there being no-one else to turn to. The “going” for the Poles in that country with those borders was tough for most of its history so there was a vast number of occasions for “turning to God”.

During the partition of the country (see Russia, Prussia and Austria) the Priests also helped in keeping the language going by travelling from village to village and teaching about the faith in Polish. So there are lots of little links between politics and culture and religion .

The odd thing about the Poles is that were they forced to pray on order, they’d probably all become atheists within the day. A nation with a peculiarly contrary nature.
Debianco 19 | 111  
14 Dec 2007 /  #4
omniba this is very interesting-you seem to know a lot about this subject-have you studied it?
omniba  
14 Dec 2007 /  #5
Thanks! I have, however I've tried to simplify it and probably have over-simplified here - but that was just to keep it very short and sweet.
Przemas 1 | 101  
14 Dec 2007 /  #6
The odd thing about the Poles is that were they forced to pray on order, they’d probably all become atheists within the day. A nation with a peculiarly contrary nature.

I am not a big fan of such hypothetical conclusions.

Reason being, the term “all” is to me an unconceivable assumption.

I personally know, that if such an order were to come to pass, women like my grandmother, would still remain faithful, due to her unyielding devotion.

I also presume the same could be said for many other Poles.
cyg 5 | 119  
14 Dec 2007 /  #7
Catholicism is by no means a permanent fixture of Polishness -- during the reformation most Poles ended up Protestant, only to come back to Roman Catholicism after the Swedish invasions in the 17th century. Later history, as Omniba wrote, has reinforced Poles' Catholicism, but even today many Polish Catholics have very little idea of what their faith demands.
Debianco 19 | 111  
14 Dec 2007 /  #8
what does their faith demand?
omniba  
14 Dec 2007 /  #9
Reason being, the term “all” is to me an unconceivable assumption.

Come, come, come! It's nearly Christmas so let's polish up that sense of humour! :) Anyway I did say "probably".

Catholicism is by no means a permanent fixture of Polishness

This, again probably, has a lot of truth in it. The Polish approach to faith seems fairly individualistic - maybe even a bit gnostic, and certainly not sheep-like. It's Catholicism with a slightly raised eyebrow, and a pinch of salt - and yet oddly loved.
celinski 31 | 1,258  
14 Dec 2007 /  #10
My family, "Thanks God for the ones that survived (WW2)and trusts in God to care for the ones that did not."

Carol
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163  
14 Dec 2007 /  #11
one of the only Slavic Nations that took up Roman Catholicism

Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia...
cyg 5 | 119  
14 Dec 2007 /  #12
what does their faith demand?

Belief in God, for one. If 94% of Poles claim to be Catholic, but only 80% believe in God, then something's amiss, isn't it?
omniba  
14 Dec 2007 /  #13
If 94% of Poles claim to be Catholic, but only 80% believe in God

Saying that one is Catholic very often means that one has been baptised into the faith – it doesn’t necessarily follow that one is a practising Catholic, surely.
Przemas 1 | 101  
14 Dec 2007 /  #14
Come, come, come! It's nearly Christmas so let's polish up that sense of humour! :) Anyway I did say "probably".

Unfortunately, probability is yet another road that is too long and unsubstantiated for me to venture on. :)
plk123 8 | 4,150  
15 Dec 2007 /  #15
btw.. mieszko 1 wasn't a king. he was just a prince. his son was the first king of PL. poles were never anything but catholic except tiny minorities and the largest of those were jews.

the southern slavs have had the orthodox and islamic influences mainly because of their georgaphical proximity to those religions.

PL was also highly pagan prior to 966.. catholic religion has many pagan rituals incoorporated into it. so it was natural for "us" to lean that way.
omniba  
15 Dec 2007 /  #16
PL was also highly pagan prior to 966.. catholic religion has many pagan rituals incoorporated into it. so it was natural for "us" to lean that way.

Well, the Poles were pagans, but they had their gods - sacred oaks et al - like many other European countries before the onset of Christianity.

The Christians indeed incorporated many pagan rituals to "sweeten the pill" and oil the route to conversion, but this wasn't the reason why the Poles adopted the Roman Church and not the Orthodox one.

As it is there were already many contacts with the Roman Church or those linked to it, and these contacts came from both the political sphere and the commercial one. There had also been a trade route linking what would one day be Poland with the Roman Empire, if I’m not mistaken. So it was this that led to the Roman Church’s influence rather than “fun” rituals.

You are very right about Mieszko – but I’m sure he’s delighted to have been a fraction upgraded - and with the use of such modern technology, too!
David_18 68 | 982  
15 Dec 2007 /  #17
I haven't read much of the Polish/Slavic history buts it's starting to interest me now at 15 and was wondering why we are one of the only Slavic Nations that took up Roman Catholicism when most nations are Orthodox? How did this happen etc.?

It happend becuse long time ago The roman Empire had 2 sides west and east. The west one was catholic and the east one choosed the orthodox side. becuse of the polish Geografi and the polish Culture was strong influensed by the western Europe it was natural for Poland to choose the catholic side and When the Polich king miezko made Poland an catholic country he also secured the Polish borders becuse the pope recognised The polish border and Poland as an Major power in europe. You can say it was an political strategy by the Polish king
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
15 Dec 2007 /  #18
during the reformation most Poles ended up Protestant, only to come back to Roman Catholicism after the Swedish invasions in the 17th century.

I don't think this is true.
There were protestants in Poland as Poland was probably the most culturally diverse country in Europe. All kinds of dissidents flocked to the country in various waves because of the lack of freedoms in their own, but they were never a force sufficient enough to justify the statement that "most Poles ended up Protestant" at any time in Poland's history.

As a matter of fact, the defence of Jasna Gora and its military and symbolic role in Poland's history may give you some clues.

The first king of Poland then used Christianity as a unifying element (first little link between religion and politics) to bring all the tribes together and make one strong nation – this was officially done in 966 with the Baptism of Poland

That is definitely true, although I'd argue that Poland's native (Slavic) religion could have been enough of a unifying force. As a matter of fact, Christianity was not welcomed by Poles with open arms, and as late as 15 century, in some areas of Poland they still had some basics to cover. Hugo Kollataj, when he received the parish of Krzyzanowice at the end of the 18th century, still complained about pagan customs and resistance to Christianity in the area which is a locaation of some of the oldest chirches in all of Poland. Surprisingly large number of even little villages have little historic treasures dating back to 12th century and before..

There remains another element that seemed of critical importance in the decision to accept Chrsitianity. The western lands were inhabited by Germanic tribes, which by then were Christian, just like much of Europe to the west and south of Poland. Christianity, by the 10th century became a power to recon with. Poland simply stood no chance against Germany (and the rest of Christian Europe ready to help them) in their quest to "legaly" conquer new lands to convert pagans. For the glory of god, of course. Mieszko was smart and did the right thing. Just look how Prussians did. They rejected christianity.

Mieszko was wise to consider neighboring German power. This was an important factor in selecting which nation Poland would turn to in order to recieve baptism. Politically, Czechs, as weaker and less aggressive towards Poland than Germans were a logical choice. That helped Poland find itself outside the formal dependence of the German church (and thus politics).

In a way, and very roughly, think about Poland's acceptance of Christianity as politically similar to Poland's membership in EU. End there was resistance and dissatisfaction with both :)
cyg 5 | 119  
17 Dec 2007 /  #19
As a matter of fact, the defence of Jasna Gora and its military and symbolic role in Poland's history may give you some clues.

The defense of Jasna Gora was mostly a propaganda victory, and was made into a national symbol during the counter-reformation under the arch-Catholic Vasa kings (especially Zygmunt III), and of course in the 19th century with the publication of Henryk Sienkiewicz's trilogy.

The defense itself wasn't really as dramatic as all that. The 48 days of siege consisted mostly of negotiations, and the Swedes ended up leaving largely because the fortress had very little strategic importance and there was a bit of trouble brewing, possibly with peasant unrest (caused mainly by high tax levies under Swedish rule, not Catholic sentiment, though that could be disputed, I suppose). As far as religious-national symbolism, about a quarter of the 3200 attackers were in fact Polish troops - which is about twice the number of defenders.

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