[img]https://www.sermonindex.net/images/forum/2004/may/featured_news.gif[/img]With the 10 new EU member states, the religious map of Europe is also changing dramatically, bringing aboard Catholics, the Orthodox Church and Protestants. What role do churches play in these countries today?Along with Malta, Poland is an exception in the European Union: 95 percent of its citizens belong to the Catholic Church, and about half go to church services regularly on Sundays. Poland is the biggest of the new member states, and it will add millions of devout Catholics to the EU's population. But not everyone in Poland see that as a positive development -- many representatives of the church stood against Warsaw's entry into the EU. They feared the Western-atheist and secular tendencies of the EU could force undesired changes in a staunchly Catholic society."The Catholic religion is one for the poor people," said Magdalena Loniak, a Polish student. "But that's going to change when the people have a higher quality of life. Then they'll be forced to become less devout." There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up that claim through the experiences of other countries that have previously joined the EU. Just call it "political market forces."Both Spain and Portugal are fundamentally Catholic countries. But since they joined the EU in 1986, both have seen a drop in the importance of religious life in their societies. Drawing analogies from Spain and Portugal's membership with the current enlargement, however, is like comparing apples and oranges. There's a major difference this time around: The new members, with the exceptions of Malta and Cyprus, are all countries of the former Eastern Bloc. In these areas, churches were often oppressed under Communist regimes, and believers were persecuted. Rather than serving to drive people away from the church, however, state-supported oppression brought people closer to religion. Even today they have a tremendous sense of loyalty.
_________________SI Moderator - Greg Gordon