The Polish Light-Life Movement: Another Perspective
Zygmunt P. Karel
Editor's note: Following the publication of "The Polish Light-Life Movement and the Roman Catholic Church" by Pawel Zalecki, East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Winter 2003), 9-10, the Report received a response and critique of the movement by a leading Polish Protestant educator, which is published below.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century the Roman Catholic Church made a vital contribution to the national history of Poland. Within the Catholic Church one of the most striking phenomena of the 1980s and 90s was the Light-Life Movement. Also called the Oasis Movement, as early as 1973 it set as goals for its followers "to
participate in individual evangelism or evangelistic services concluding with a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to follow the path of Christ's disciples."
Its discipleship program has as its chief objective an encounter with the Christ present in the Scriptures (Level I), followed by a liturgical and sacramental initiation leading a person to an internal liberation from the old nature (Level II). A significant characteristic of the Movement is its focus on the Virgin Mary. "Had it not been for the Movement, I would now be a lost man, like many of my peers," says Dr. Jacek Zielinski, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wroclaw and the Biblical Theological Seminary, Wroclaw. Dr. Zielinski is an example of the Movement's positive influence, including its fight against addictions which devastate human dignity.
From the perspective of the Catholic Church, numerous groups within the Movement "got out of control." Personally, I witnessed two such instances: in the 1980s, when church hierarchs forced the dissolution of a dynamic group of several thousand students meeting at the Dominican Church in Cracow, and in the 1990s, when a group of several hundred Oasis Movement young people in Wroclaw met the same fate. These were just two of many instances of Light-Life fellowships suppressed by the Polish Catholic Church in the 1980s and 90s.
The turning point in the development of the Oasis Movement occurred in 1979 with the ascendancy of Pope John Paul II (Cardinal Karol Wojtyla) to the papacy and with the departure from Poland of Father Franciszek Blachnicki. Both men had been protectors and promoters of the Movement.
The departure of these two leading proponents of Oasis spelled trouble as Oasis no longer could resist the strong pressure of conservative factions within the Polish Church. Many of its leaders, accused of
Protestant sympathies, were faced with the demand of"recatholicization." This resulted in the exodus of numerous influential
persons from the Movement and the hierarchy's assertion of strict control over Oasis fellowships. Presently, Light-Life young people who
object to "recatholicization" are forming independent charismatic communities or are joining established charismatic or, to a lesser extent, non-charismatic evangelical churches.
Toward the end of the twentieth century the dynamism of the Light-Life Movement began to fade. It seems that this Movement, historically so beneficial to Polish youth, is now past its prime.
Zygmunt P. Karel is president of Biblical Theological Seminary, Wroclaw, Poland.
The Light-Life/Oasis Movement, 1993-2002
Source: Light-Life Movement Web site: http://www.oaza.org.pl/polski/.
Zygmunt P. Karel, "The Polish Light-Life Movement," East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Summer 2003), 11.
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© 2003 East-West Church and Ministry Report