Poland’s Young Generation: A Shift From Religious Practices
A Change in Polish Religiosity
The recent report “Church in Poland 2023” compiled by the Catholic Information Agency and the Institute of National Thought Heritage unveils a significant shift in religious practices, particularly among younger generations and in large cities. The report explores the workings of the Church in Poland, focusing on pastoral activities, as well as charity and social work. It also provides insight into the current state of Polish religiosity and its ongoing transformations.
According to Prof. Mirosława Grabowska, a sociologist from the University of Warsaw, the changes observed in the Catholic Church in Poland are more of transformations than a process of secularization. She asserts that Poland, in the eyes of international sociologists, still holds a reputation as a more religious country compared to others.
Faith and Practice: A Growing Dichotomy
Over the past 5-8 years, a noticeable shift in religious practices has been observed in Poland. Interestingly, the rate of change in religious practices is outpacing the change in the level of faith. On a societal level, the declared faith amongst Poles has not significantly altered over the past 30 years. However, the practice of religion has seen a considerable shift, especially among the highly educated individuals and those residing in large cities.
The process of moving away from religious practices is most rapid among the younger generations. The report reveals that 21 percent of young people indicated “personal beliefs and considerations” as the main reason for their disbelief or indifference. Additionally, 18.98 percent pointed to “discouragement from the Church as an institution”, while 9.3 percent referenced “knowledge of priests’ negative moral attitudes”.
Important Values and Expectations from the Church
The report outlines the most important values for high school students, including love, gaining human trust, friends, family happiness, striving for chosen goals, finding one’s place in society, and the need to feel necessary and useful. However, religious faith as a life-defining element was indicated by only one-tenth of the respondents.
When asked about their expectations from the Church, young people highlighted experiencing God (32.5 percent), support in crisis situations (29.7 percent), and arguments for the truth of faith (27 percent). Interestingly, 26 percent of respondents stated that they “expect nothing from the Church”.
When prompted about the actions they would appreciate from the Church, 35.6 percent of young individuals mentioned priests being open to discussions about their searches and problems. In addition, 28.6 percent expressed the need for places for open meetings, discussions, and joint rest. Meanwhile, 26.5 percent indicated a place to always go to in a crisis situation.
Structures of the Catholic Church
The “Church in Poland 2023” report also discusses the structures of the Catholic Church, its charitable activity, family pastoral care, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, Catholic media, and Catholic schools. It provides a comprehensive overview of the state of the Church in Poland, aiding understanding of the ongoing changes in the practice of religion among the Polish population.
The report sheds light on the dynamic nature of religious practices and beliefs among the younger generation in Poland. While there is a clear shift away from traditional religious practices, it is crucial to understand that this shift does not necessarily denote a loss of faith. The dichotomy between faith and practice is a testament to the evolving relationship between the younger population and the Church, shaped by personal beliefs, societal changes, and the actions of the Church itself. As the Church continues its work in various societal spheres, it faces the challenge of bridging the gap between faith and practice, particularly amongst the younger generation.
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