Polish Catholicism as an Expression of National Identity
The church developed its activity, both of a religious and patriotic character, especially in times when the Polish nation was deprived of its own statehood. Foreign rulers of the nation were well aware of the fact that the church represented and expressed real aspirations of the nation; hence, these rulers combined anti-Polish activities with antichurch ones by interfering with the affairs of the church and limiting its rights and even its control over strictly religious matters. In spite of administrative pressures and struggle with the church, the state recognized and properly appreciated this role of the church in the Polish nation, and successive ruling teams turned to the church for help. The church understood political situation from the beginning and that is why, like the state, it influenced the whole society through developing mass pastoral services. Religious practices connected with the Icon of the Czestochowa Virgin Mary have become symbols of the identification between the nation and the church.