Lutheran Religion and Churches in Communist Poland, 1983

This fascinating video was brought to my attention by Fr. Charles McClean back in January of 2014. It’s a full recording of a television feature on the Evangelical Church in the PRL (People’s Republic of Poland) produced in 1983, several years before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Some information from the Wiki, some of which may surprise you:

While there are a number of religious communities operating in Poland, the majority of its population adheres to Christianity. Within this, the largest grouping is the Roman Catholic Church – with 87.5% of Poles in 2011 identifying as Roman Catholic,[1] (census conducted by the Central Statistics Office (GUS)).[1][2][3] 65% of Polish believers attend church services on a regular basis.[4]

 

Catholicism continues to play an important role in the lives of many Poles and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland enjoys social prestige and political influence, despite repression experienced under Communist rule.[5] It is particularly regarded by its members as a repository of Polish heritage and culture.[6] Poland lays claim to having the highest proportion of Catholic citizens than any country in Europe except for Malta (including more than in Italy, Spain and Ireland).

 

This numerical dominance results from the Nazi German Holocaust of Jews living in Poland and the World War II casualties among Polish religious minorities,[7][8][9][10] as well as the flight of German Protestants from the Soviet army at the end of World War II.

 

The rest of the population consists mainly of Eastern Orthodox (504,150 believers, Polish and Belarusian),[2][3] various Protestant churches (about 145,600, with the largest being the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland with 61,738 members)[2][3][3] and Jehovah’s Witnesses (129,270). There are about 85,000 Greek Catholics in Poland. Other religions practiced in Poland, by less than 1% of the population, include Islam and Judaism[2][3] and to a lesser extent Hinduism and Buddhism.

So Poland is the most Roman Catholic country in Europe, and ~65% of that cohort regularly attend services. Fascinating. And, all things considered, thanks be to God. I don’t really know that much about the state of Confessional Lutheranism in Poland today, but I do know that Lutheranism has had a presence in Poland (specifically in Habsburg Silesia) since the very beginning of the Reformation. Again, from the Wiki:

The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession is rooted in the Reformation. The first Lutheran sermons were held in 1518, and in 1523 the first Lutheran dean, Johann Heß, was called to the city of Breslau, whence Lutheranism was spread into the Polish lands. Today the Church has its primary adherents in the Polish part of Cieszyn Silesia.

 

The church in Poland suffered during and after World War II. The ranks of pastors, teachers and other church leadership were somewhat diminished by persecution, imprisonment, and death. During the early postwar years, a staggering number of church properties were taken over for other purposes, and the connections of Protestant Lutheranism to the German cultural sphere made authorities and Polish locals inimical towards the Lutherans left. Gradually, the Evangelical Church of Augsburg Confession in Poland has been reshaped into an active body. On 12 October 2008, Polish president Lech Kaczyński—himself of the Catholic faith—visited the Lutheran Protestant Jesus Church in Cieszyn, becoming the first Polish president who ever visited a Protestant place of worship.[2][3]

And who can forget those magnificent Lutheran house of worship, the Churches of Peace! I wrote about them here last year, lamenting how we modern Lutherans, free as we are from repressive governmental strictures and having far better materials at our disposal, choose— yes, choose!— to create hideous, soul-killing architectural blights, ugly inside and out, for our worship of Almighty God. And yet our Polish coreligionists of yore in a single year wrought three sublimely beautiful churches out of wood, loam, and straw. It makes you think.

Anyway, back to the video. To borrow a phrase from the Methodists, just to bug you, I really must say that my heart is strangely warmed by all of this: here are people who confess the same faith as I do, living behind the Iron Curtain over thirty years ago. Doubtless some of them are now dead. Yet despite all of that distance in time and space, and despite the difference in language, I feel and perceive a common bond, not only of confession (for who can see a confession, or hear it when the language is foreign?) but of religion, manifest by the powerful symbol of the catholic and evangelical liturgy. And by beffchen, which need to make a comeback.

I might update this post with some commentary after I’ve watched the video again. I mainly just wanted to get it out there. Enjoy.

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