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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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Poland. The Catholic Church’s Influence on Social, Political and Private Life (Michał Czelny, Marta Ordon and Michał Zawiślak)


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The Catholic Church’s Influence on Social, Political and Private Life

Michał CZELNY, Marta ORDON and Michał ZAWIŚLAK

John Paul II Catholic University, Lublin

In Poland, religious freedom is guaranteed by the 1997 Constitution and by international instruments incorporated into Polish law. The country is also party to most European and universal Human Rights documents. In 2014, the number of Catholics was estimated at 34,494,741 (87.05% of the entire population), the number of Orthodox Christians at 504,400 (1.31%) and the number of Protestants at 122,282 (0.32%).1 Surveys of the Centre of Public Opinion Research (CBOS) and the Catholic Church Institute of Statistics have shown that 90% of the Polish population consider themselves a religious person, whereas the latest CBOS survey (2015) reveals that 50% of the population participates in mass at least once a week (58% in 2005). The same survey indicates that the proportion of people who do not attend Church services has increased from 9% in 2005 to 13% in 2015. Daily prayer is also in steep decline: from 66% in 2005 to 43% in 2015.

The Polish Constitution does not explicitly refer to the principle of Church-State separation. The relationship between the State, Churches and other religious denominations is defined by 5 principles: impartiality, equality of rights, autonomy and independence, cooperation, and bilateralism.2 The principle of impartiality is the essence of Polish secularism. It presupposes an objective...

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