United in sorrow
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
'One empty place at the table' - these are the words of a song, which are so moving, full of drama, and so adequate for the situation in our beloved Silesia. But there will not be the only empty places because the victims of the catastrophic failure in Katowice do not only come from this region but also from all over Poland and from Europe. The tragedy that occurred on Saturday 27 January filled all Poles with sorrow. Immediately after the roof collapse there came the representatives of the government, President Lech Kaczynski, and Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, expressing their highest interest in this human misfortune. Naturally, the catastrophe caused profound sorrow but it also showed extraordinary attitudes of people who brought useful help. It is very important that the rescue and medical teams and firemen arrived at the site of the hall without being directly called. This is the picture of wonderful people in Silesia, who fulfilled concrete tasks to bring effective help in the dramatic situation. Among those who first arrived at the place were also priests. We can mention their names with gratitude: Fr Zenon Drozdz, local parish priest, who raised the spirits of the survivors, Fr Konrad Zubel from Bytkow, Fr Henryk Kuczob, chaplain for the Silesian firemen, or Fr Krzysztof Bak, director of 'Caritas' in Katowice. Masses for the victims were celebrated in the churches of the Archdiocese of Katowice and all over the country. In this dramatic moment it occurred that Poles opened their hearts and made the grade, there was no tardiness, laziness, cunning. The officials responsible for the rescue action called it excellent and professional. The Silesians are concrete, direct and responsible; people who can count on. On the one hand, we have the picture of well organised help, dedicated people, and on the other, we have the picture of sorrow and misfortune. And we often say: it was just as well. The attitude of the people, willingness to help, good organisation of the security services - all these things make us feel proud and give us satisfaction.
What makes us sad is the very fact that such a tragedy did happen, that there was some neglect concerning the usage of this large trade hall. Moral theology speaks about the sin of negligence - in this case this was the cause of this tragic disaster. If we, as citizens, could fulfil our duties more carefully, if we did not commit the sin of negligence, such accidents would not happen. Looking at the tragedy through the eyes of faith let us try to understand the intentions of Divine Providence that allows such situations to occur. One cannot wait to ask the question: Why? Surely, God demands that people co-operate with him, demands that they work loyally and responsibly. Engineering works, technical constructions, settling accounts - these things require suitable attitude and precision. But in other fields we need to be responsible since the consequences of our deeds are always serious. There is some great God's engineering, based on moral responsibility for everything we do. And if responsibility is replaced with light-heartedness we will have to deal with various difficult situations.
There is a certain order of things, which is within the limits of human rights, in man's activities. The thing is that man should not betray the tasks that God has entrusted him with. God demands that man perform the tasks with solidity, honesty, righteousness, using the values and riches of the mind and heart. Man should be reasonable, sagacious, and should discern properly - bene distinguere. This concerns all people. Sometimes we can use our skills well but if we are not sagacious, responsible, just, honest; if we do not use our imagination, we can many a time hurt numerous people. This is the way the mechanism works and it proves beyond any doubt that the fundamental lesson to man is the lesson of morality.
We must live through the tragedy in Katowice, attend with care to those who have plunged into sorrow, to explain the tragic event and to learn from it. We all must think how we should work on people's consciences in order not to commit sins of negligence, so that people's hearts and consciences are ruled by great responsibility. Responsibility and professional competence of designers and contractors as well as the more and more effective technical equipment must surely prevent similar accidents. It is the only way we can work on proper civilizational development of mankind.
We share the sorrow of all those who have suffered in the Katowice tragedy, trusting that Good God can lead us out of this overwhelming disaster to our well-being.
Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis celebrated Mass for the victims of the tragedy in our editorial office on 1 February 2006.