After the conference: Citizenship and patriotism

After the conference: Citizenship and patriotism


Societies are based on a community of intentions and feelings, rights and obligations, on solidarity and friendship of their members, their strengths and weaknesses. They become Homeland in the course of transformation by social consciousness and common heritage, i.e. material and cultural wealth, values and moral authority, institutions and structures.


The validity of the subject and method of reflection have been defined as follows: “Theology and theo-logic of the homeland and the nation, as well as theological reflection on the relations between man – nation – fatherland – state – citizenship protect this complex conglomerate of problems subjected to ambiguity and distortion from mistakes and their existential consequences (which often have terrible consequences), such as uprooting and orphanhood on the one hand and nationalism on the other “(Rev. Father Jerzy Szymik).

In the context of fundamental historical experiences, the Silesian route to an Independent Republic of Poland was particularly prominent. “If it were not for the love of the nation, manifesting itself in various forms, including national uprisings, Poland would not have been reborn in 1918 after almost 150 years of captivity, and Silesia – although only a part of it – would not have returned to Poland” said Rev. Father Prof. Jerzy Myszor in 1922.

The metropolitan archbishop of Katowice, Wiktor Skworc, referred to diverse sources of patriotism, saying: “Generations of Upper Silesians including our grandparents and parents knew well the meaning of the concept of citizenship and patriotism. They showed it in the gift of selfless work, in a sense of duty and loyalty to the state. And, above all, by preserving family life and family as a place for passing on faith and values, culture, tradition and historical memory.”


A discussion panel entitled “House of remembrance – remembrance of home. Roads to Independence” provided an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of understanding and manifesting patriotism and citizenship. The reflection that Homeland is above all a spiritual home, a family nest, a patrimony and a nursery reappeared in the discussion over and over again. Local and self-generated values preserved there permeate all those who are united by the national community and mould them according to a specific system of judgments, assessments, attitudes and life behaviours. All in all, they create a certain internal order based primarily on spiritual bonds (Prof. Dorota Hecke).

A similar reflection was expressed by Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin: “Patriotism and involvement are a bit like air,” he said. “We breathe it to live. We need the oxygen. But when breathing we rarely think about this life-giving element. “

Culture is precisely such a life-giving, superior category, integrating all the elements of national identity – tradition, language, dreams and ideas, common destiny. “The nation is a large community of people connected by various bonding elements” said John Paul II, “but the first one […] is culture. A nation exists ‘from culture’ and ‘for culture’. […] Fundamental sovereignty of people is expressed in the culture of their nation. It is also sovereignty by which man is simultaneously most sovereign.”

All the aspects of culture: religious life, morality and education, learning, literature and art, customs and history allow us to experience contemporary forms of patriotism and citizenship in a way that Karol Wojtyla calls “the principle of world citizenship”. “With my experience of the history of my homeland, with growing experience of my nation’s values, I was not at all a stranger to the people I met,” he testifies. “On the contrary, the experience of my homeland made it easier for me to meet people and nations on all continents.”

Simone Weil makes it more concrete by talking about the need to belong: “Rooting is perhaps the most important and best-known need of the human soul,” she writes. “At the same time, it is a need that is difficult to determine. A human being has roots if they actively and naturally participate in the existence of a community which stores treasures of the past and is endowed with a sense of tomorrow.”


“Patriotism becomes a matter not so much of inheritance as a newly discovered value” (Rev. Father Prof. Janusz Mariański). This thought was especially prominent during a debate on “Contemporary Polish patriotism – national patriotism?” and in the voices of the panellists of “Citizenship and patriotism of contemporary Poles. An attempt at a diagnosis and perspective.”

The principle of subsidiarity is the cornerstone of pro-civic policy and a constitutional principle and it defines the rules of helping people in the self-fulfilment of other members of the same community by providing their development in freedom and in various aspects of human maturity and in safeguarding these values.

All levels of this community diversity are necessary for a free and just society to exist. However, none can replace “ordered unity” – cooperation and commitment – which is based on friendship: family, social, political, institutional, and with the goal of common welfare.

In implementing this welfare, “the responsibility of a person who is only responsible for themselves is one thing – they should be guided by […] ethics of beliefs, be absolutely faithful to their views. On the other hand, the responsibility of a politician is a different thing, as they must first of all pay attention to the social consequences of their decisions – be guided not so much by the ethics of beliefs as by the ethics of responsibility. Of course, these two moral imperatives should not be opposed, one must look for balance between them. In this search, in accordance with the Catholic social teaching, conscience, which is the voice of God in our soul should be our compass.”(Jarosław Gowin).

Experience shows that such a balance is key in the social space related to the tension between justice and love. Justice alone is not enough; moreover, it may lead to denial and self-destruction if it does not allow a deeper power of love  to mould human life in its various dimensions.

Only love can make justice truly creative from the perspective of social good, from the perspective of real progress of humanity.


Patriotism and citizenship are ultimately “love and responsibility” (Rev. Father Antoni Bartoszek). Inextricably linked with each other – as in the title of the book by Bishop Karol Wojtyła – they describe the completeness of man and their social references. In this spirit, “strengthening (awakening, developing, purifying) patriotism is the best way to strengthen (awaken, develop, purify) virtues and civic attitudes” (Rev. Father Prof. Jerzy Szymik) with the awareness that “there is no love without sacrifice and equally there is no patriotism without sacrifice” (Rev. Father Dr. Arkadiusz Wuwer).

In this context – the repeatedly resounding appeal for a “Jagiellonian” dimension of Polishness means – again quoting the words of John Paul II – that Polishness is hospitality and openness, “plurality and pluralism, not narrowness and withdrawal”. And, at the same time, “preserving and developing the identity of a nation before dissolving in supranational and cosmopolitan structures” (Rev. Father Prof. Jerzy Szymik). Such “patriotism is neither nationalistic, nor cosmopolitan, nor national-socialist, it is rather a warm feeling for the homeland” (Jerzy Polaczek). Homeland, the concept of which Christ “opens up […] towards eschatology and eternity, but does not take away anything from its temporal aspect” (John Paul II). “For a Christian, their country, their place of residence, is temporary. However, they are to pray for prosperity for the city, the place they live in without forgetting that their Homeland is in heaven, ” emphasized Bishop Marian Niemiec.

A simplified conclusion of the conference – in view of the richness of the presented contents, debates and polemics – may be found in a statement that we deal with patriotism and citizenship when they become an increasingly communal reality and when they assume the kind of social friendship that specifically and simply embodies love for another being, “Caritas”, “wellbeing” of everyone.

The Church’s Liturgy expresses it in the following prayer: “Teach us, God, true and active love for our people and for all people without exception; grant all nations prosperity and peace” (vespida of Sunday of the first week).