Is there a JPII generation in Poland?

29-12-2006

As millions of Catholics around the world commemorated the first anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death earlier this month, in his native Poland the atmosphere was very reminiscent of what the country witnessed a year ago, before and after the Pope's death. But is there anything beyond these manifestations of religious fervour?

All analysts of the pontificate of John Paul II agree that he was able to establish a special rapport with young people. After the Pope's death a year ago, one could see a sense of unity among young Poles, not only believers. Some church leaders and sociologists began to speak of the J P II Generation. Is there such a generation in present-day Poland?

"There is the JP II generation. It was evident not only in how we got together after the Pope's death but in how we approach his entire mission and his message to the young."

"I can see no feature that would unite the present generation of young Poles. Looking back at the past year I think that very little has remained of that unique atmosphere."

This economics student describes herself as a member of the J P II generation of people who were strongly influenced by the Pope.

"I trust in his words. I feel I should study more carefully what he wrote. The pace of life now is so fast that it would be worth thinking over everything and getting something more from our life than just earning money."

According to sociological surveys while as many as 86 percent of young Poles took part in last year's events in tribute to the Pope, only 45 percent think we can talk of them in terms of a distinct generation and as many as 30 percent describe J P II generation as a media catchphrase. A Warsaw teacher Jurek Kaminski thinks the idea of a generation is a bit far-fetched:

"Youth is not different from other parts of society so there are young people who are believers and those who are not. I know of T-shirts with the slogan J P II Generation but here in Warsaw you actually don't see them. Perhaps in places such as Lednica and Czestochowa you do. You can't speak of a young generation as a whole as those who celebrate the figure of John Paul II."

Polish MEP Konrad Szymanski thinks that the J P II generation is a genuinely new social phenomenon.

"You can seen the J P II Generation is some places like the Warsaw masses for the Pope, like Lednica, where you can find many professionally trained persons who are very devoted to the Catholic heritage and are looking for new clothes for this message. So I think this is the spirit of the generation, they would like to influence the reality, this is something new."

According to Jonathan Luxmoore, a prominent writer on religious affairs, the notion - the J P II generation - refers not to those in their twenties but rather to the generation of their parents who were connected with the Solidarity revolution:

"For me that is really the generation of John Paul II because it was most affected by his presence. As to the young people today, that I'm not so sure about. I think that with all occasions like this, the national mourning, that has rather petered out. On the other hand, there will be personal memories which remain of those exceptional days that April which will stay with people."

There is no doubt that the long pontificate of the Polish Pope led to wide-ranging transformations in Poland. It is difficult to say at the moment if young Poles of today will one day come to be referred to as a separate generation.

29-12-2006