Your Eminence, we thank you
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
In May 1965, when I began working as notary for the Diocesan Curia in Czestochowa Bishop Stefan Barela sent me to the Metropolitan Curia in Gniezno to see how that office functioned. Then I met Fr Jozef Glemp for the first time. A colleague of mine said about the priest who was passing by, 'Look at this priest, great future lies before him'. Afterwards I used to meet Rev. Msgr Jozef Glemp who was the personal chaplain of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. He enjoyed high respect and confidence of the great Primate who, especially before long journeys, commissioned his chaplain to settle many important matters. We knew that he was an outstanding personality. And several years later that young priest became the Primate of Poland. After the death of Cardinal Wyszynski the Holy Father John Paul II named Jozef Glemp Bishop of Warmia and Archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno, which meant the title of the Primate. That was the beginning of the ministry of the Successor of Cardinals: Kakowski, Hlond and Wyszynski.
His duties were not easy at all. At the beginning of his ministry the marshal law was imposed and one had to react properly in that responsible and difficult situation. It was like walking on thin line. The communist regime was not kind but acted deceitfully. The whole communist apparatus carefully observed the Polish Church, the head of which was the Primate of Poland.
We remember that especially at the beginning of his ministry Cardinal Glemp was compared to his predecessor. But their ministries in the Polish Church were quite different. Wyszynski acted in the situation that was as if 'black and white': one knew who the enemy was and what methods the communists used. When Cardinal Glemp assumed office the political and social reality changed very much. Those were not the Stalinist times but they were also extremely turbulent times, which required deep discernment and wisdom. This discernment was not easy; many people came to the Primate and presented him their advice and observation. First of all, the Church had to continue her pastoral work and show options to be considered. When Cardinal Glemp served as Archbishop of Warsaw the Pope was John Paul II. The Holy Father visited his Homeland many times and was actively involved in the process of decision-making in the Polish Church. One could draw a lot from the richness of faith and wisdom of John Paul II and by seeing our problems in the background of the universal Church. Cardinal Glemp experienced all those things during 25 years of his pastoral ministry. And that also included presiding the Bishops' Conference, i.e. running the whole Polish Church, and patiently building legal structures with the Apostolic See, such as the concordat.
Later one could see another difference between the time of Glemp's ministry and that of Cardinal Wyszynski. When we regained freedom and relished the possibility of speaking what we thought or seemed, and when the so-called pluralism of thinking was clearly visible in the society that phenomenon influenced the Bishops' Conference as well. In the period of Cardinal Wyszynski the bishops were tightly-knit; they knew that absolute unity was needed in the Bishops' Conference because they dealt with the dangerous enemy, which was the communism. Afterwards the situation changed and especially after 1989 the Bishops' Conference changed its ways of work. Moreover, the Apostolic Nuncio took over many issues concerning the functioning of the Church in Poland.
The 25-year-old ministry of Cardinal Jozef Glemp in the Polish Church should be undoubtedly studied and analysed. But one observation is obvious: he has always acted with great patience and prudence. The Divine Providence has given us Cardinal Jozef Glemp who is a man of God; he saved Poland from bloodshed when marshal law was imposed. And today, when we listen to his opinions and speeches we can see that they are balanced, considered as well as modern and open. Nowadays, in the very difficult time for the Church, we want to support the Primate and wholeheartedly thank him that for the Polish clergy and laymen he has been a sign of love for God and man, and that he is a man of true peace. He deserves our highest respect and gratitude for his attitude towards the difficult Polish history.