Pastoral letter of the Polish Bishops for the Papal Day on 10 October 2004: 'John Paul II - The Pilgrim of Peace'
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9)
1. Faith as the basis of concern for peace, the concern voiced together with John Paul II
Sisters and Brothers,
'Faith that changes life'. Such a title could be given to the contents of the Word of God for this Sunday. The reading from the Book of Habakkuk shows us a prayer of a believer who faces the harsh reality of evil, 'Lord, why do you set injustice before me?' A call for faith is included in St Paul's words to proclaim the Good News of Christ in an indifferent or unfriendly environment, 'God's gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control'. In the Gospel Jesus reminds us that 'Were your faith the size of a mustard seed', it would receive an inconceivable usefulness only from God.
Thanks to these inspired texts we see better the unlimited horizon of faith, which brightens up the Christian tasks in these October days. In the prayer of rosary we implore from God the gift of peace (cf. RVM 6). On the occasion of the Week of Mercy we ask God for sensitivity of hearts and hands for those in need. Celebrating the 26th anniversary of the Holy Father John Paul II's election to the papacy we want to reflect on his apostolic concern for peace in the world. Therefore, the motto of this year's Papal Day, to be held on Sunday, 10 October, will be the words: 'John Paul II - The Pilgrim of Peace'.
2. Peaceful presence of Poland in the family of nations
Now it is another occasion to reflect on the reality of the pontificate, which is so close to us. We have no doubts that the election of Karol Wojtyla to the Apostolic See is God's gift for the Church and the world in our special times. The gift of the untiring Pilgrim, who brings peace and hope to all places where hope seems to die. This Pilgrim walks with words that encourage to spiritual transformation. He struggles for freedom, justice and respect of human rights, which are the foundations of peace. During his first pilgrimage to his homeland in June 1979 John Paul II said, 'Christ does not stop being an open book of life for the future. For our Polish tomorrow'. Together with him we discovered great energies in ourselves. The word of testimony of the Shepherd helped us to understand our own history as the heritage in Christ and to understand our tasks of today. In fact, Poland is undergoing changes. So are we. Although we are still learning what it means to live in freedom 'when Christ freed us'. Moreover, we must grow up to take the tasks we face nowadays. Recently we have regained our rightful place in Europe. Having the feeling of belonging to the same heritage, which stems from Christian roots, we are standing, in truth and love, before our brothers and sisters, representing other European nations. This is the way for us, for Poland, which the Holy Father has always shown to us and which he stressed during our National Pilgrimage to Rome in May 2003.
3. Respect for everyone
Sisters and brothers,
We are following the Pilgrim of Peace and thus we are touching the pain of man and the misery of the world. Together with the Pope we remember the sick and rejected, the unwanted and lost. We are learning about man anew and we are learning to respect every human life. We long for justice and, once again, for solidarity because we want to renew the face of the earth. We want Poland, Europe and the world to find their source of peace and spiritual transformation in Christ. Especially now, in the period of terrorism, numerous wars in the world and uncertainty of tomorrow, we are praying for peace with John Paul II. And 'to pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God's power to renew all things. With the life-giving force of his grace, God can create openings for peace... To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially for the religious freedom that is a basic human and civil right of every individual. To pray for peace is to seek God's forgiveness, and to implore the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us. (Vatican, 8 December 2001).
4. Dramatically bleeding places of war, but also sources of hope
Dear brothers and sisters,
John Paul II - the Pilgrim of Peace goes with the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations of the world, to Churches, to followers of other religions, to every man and to every human heart. He asks for reconciliation and forgiveness because he knows that there is no peace without justice and there is no justice without forgiveness. The Pope reminds us of these truths, thinking about common good of the whole human family. He has demanded peace for the Holy Land. He asked for peace in the Balkans and after the war had ended he went there as a good Samaritan in order to heal and dress wounds, to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation. He continuously asks for prayers in the intention of Sudan, Central Africa. In the international forum he reminds us of the necessity to end brotherly wars, which took millions of human beings. He zealously spoke against the war in Iraq and now he asks for solidarity with this nation. This Pilgrim of peace reminds us that the fight against terrorism, which is the global threat to the entire mankind, should be waged in the political, social, economic and educational level. One should remove the causes of injustice, which often lead to decisions to make desperate and bloody attacks. One should also initiate educational activities inspired by the respect for human life. The religious motivation to justify terrorism is contradictory to religion in its very foundations. Despite difficult situations John Paul II constantly reminds us of the possibility and the necessity for the efforts of politicians and all people of good will. And in his message for the World Day of Peace he wrote, 'Peace is possible. And if peace is possible, peace is also duty' (1 January 2004).
5. Tasks for this Papal Day
On Sunday, 10 October, we will celebrate the fourth Papal Day in Poland. We want to look at the pontificate of John Paul II as the Pontificate of the Pilgrim of Peace. May it be an occasion to reflect upon our Polish way during the time of his pontificate. Thank God we reached freedom without bloodshed. We are transforming, with errors and mistakes, our Polish reality. However, we believe that we are going in the right direction, learning about this new Poland. Although we are sometimes tired and weary of our meaninglessness we abide with Christ and ask him to renew our faith in God and faith in man as well. We ask the Holy Spirit to revive hope in us, the hope for a just world. We give ourselves up in the hands of Merciful Father asking for the gift of love that overcomes every discord and leads to unity and peace. These are the ways the Holy Father shows us. May this Papal Day, Sunday October 10, be a day of common, family refection on the words of John Paul II. And may our prayers, both our private prayers in silence, in loneliness and sometimes in suffering, and our community prayers in parish churches and religious chapels in solemn Eucharist services, be a great call to God for peace in the world. May it be an experience of the mystery of the church in unity with the Pope so that his concerns for and the matters of the Church, the Fatherland and the world, become our own concerns.
May it be a day of unity with the Apostolic See. May it be a day when we see the mystery of the Church again. And may all other meetings (scientific sessions, concerts, plays, exhibitions) serve this purpose.
Finally, we want to show solidarity in our collections inside and outside churches and also in the streets. We raise funds for scholarships for the poor and talented youth. The Holy Father blesses this fund-raiser because it is a living monument to John Paul II and to the nation in ourselves, in man, over which we bow with merciful love and gesture of concern for future generations of Poles. This is, Sisters and Brothers, building, with the Holy Father, a civilisation of love and peace in the spirit of Christ's words of the sermon on the mount, 'Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God'.
The Pilgrim of Peace takes this work in the whole world. John Paul II spoke a great message of peace during his visit to his homeland a few years ago, 'The Church constantly lives on the Good News of peace. She proclaims it to all peoples and nations. She indefatigably shows ways of peace and reconciliation. She brings peace, destroying walls of prejudice and enmity among people' (Torun, 7 June 1979).
6. The power of rosary prayer
Sisters and Brothers,
At the end of our letter we want to mention the words of John Paul II, who 'completing' the rosary prayer with 'mysteries of light', has entrusted God the cause of peace in the world and families. The rosary, the Holy Fathers stresses, is 'far from offering an escape from the problems of the world. The Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes' and faith, which with the certainty of God's help' change the face of the earth' (cf. RVM 40).
May the Jasna Gora Queen of Poland, the Queen of the Holy Rosary, the Queen of Families and Peace intercede for God's blessing upon this great work.
Archbishops and Bishops
present at the Diocesan Bishops' Session, on the feast of Mother of God of Czestochowa,
Jasna Gora, 26 August 2004