To defend all that Poland is
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl was re-elected as the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for the next five-year term. We want to congratulate His Excellency on this quick decision and firm support of the Bishops’ Conference. I remember the words of Bishop Stefan Barela of Czestochowa who having returned from Vatican Council II spoke about Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, rejoicing that the counciliar sessions had the right direction. Cardinal Wojtyla said, ‘The Council is growing!’ I think that today after the election of Archbishop Michalik one can also say, ‘The Polish Church is growing!’ I also remember the statements of the Holy Father John Paul II who noticing the articles written for ‘Niedziela’ by Archbishop Michalik said, ‘This bishop has something to say; it is good that he writes.’ It was the time when the Bishop of Przemysl, who had not been known then, shared his interesting reflections in his weekly commentaries entitled ‘A week has passed’, which were collected in two volumes under the same title. From time to time I reminded Archbishop Michalik of those papal words encouraging him to share his reflections. Since as a priest with wide experiences, also in the forum of the universal Church, he has much to say and he knows the value of ‘what Poland is.’ When we look at our Homeland and the Church we recollect the Primate of the Millennium and Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow for whom the above mentioned words were extremely important and who gave their whole contents to Lord God through the intercession of Our Lady of Jasna Gora. The Polish nation has been connected through the vows of Jasna Gora with the Mother of God Queen of Poland, nation that has taken over the great heritage of Christian culture. John Paul II often spoke about that, reminding us that culture was what saved Poland. Our history has been very difficult and dramatic and sometimes even tragic. Poland was washed away from the map of Europe and according to the plans of the partitioners it was to be completely destroyed; the occupants of the 20th century had the same plans. We owed our salvation as a nation to our adherence to the Christian family, to the Catholic Church. Lord God gave Poland great primates, bishops, especially in the figures of Cardinal Wyszynski and Cardinal Wojtyla – John Paul II. It was them that made numerous Poles follow them, made the whole nation stand at attention, not only in the country but abroad – many millions of Polish immigrants all over the world, which caused that Poland revived and began living and thinking in a different way, more vividly. The Polish culture and national awareness were renewed. But there are tendencies that want to annihilate our nation through various internationalistic activities; want to destroy everything that Poland is. Today, on the occasion of the re-election of the Metropolitan of Przemysl as the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, we express our thanksgiving to God and we want to get strengthened in our valuable Christian heritage, which in some sense is important to every president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. Since he, together with Polish bishops and all priests, must attentively guard this heritage. It is a great challenge requiring many skills, including collaboration, convincing, patience and sometimes compromise. And the stand of the Church must always be clear and understandable, connected with the teaching of Christ. Great Pope John Paul II showed this to us and so does the present Pope Benedict XVI. He is the pope with whom the Polish Bishops’ Conference has been uniquely connected and faithful to him, and the other way round – a sign of that is his weekly greetings to Poles, both during the prayer of Angelus on Sundays and in Wednesday audiences. We are Roman Catholics, which binds us very much with every pope. But there is always a great task for the president of the Bishops’ Conference who is to connect the Conference and the Polish Church with the Holy See. This constitutes a guarantee of sovereignty of the Polish nation and the Church in the world – the Holy See helps and warrants preservation of identity and inner strength. The President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference faces new tasks and challenges relating to Poland and Poles. Since various political parties, believers and those who do not belong to any Church are looking carefully at the bishops. However, they all notice that the Church has her own meaning and voice in perceiving the reality and that voice has contributed to Poland’s liberation from many occupations. It is especially needed in situations of real threats for the country and also in important spheres of life such as culture, about which I have already spoken, culture that should preserve its identity, and thus its independence, in the flood of various novelties. It has great significance for the future of the nation and of the Church, which we can see in the times of the present big immigration. Archbishop Jozef Michalik, together with priests, will have to struggle for Polish youth, families, especially the young families. This is a great pastoral challenge to save Europe. Because of the person of John Paul II the Polish Church should lead Europe that is being renewed; she should conduct her pastoral ministry in a courageous, modern way, taking into consideration the new conditions in which the world is functioning nowadays (e.g. new branches of computer sciences) and should do that in an attractive, direct and joyful way. Since this – attractive – should be the image of the new evangelisation entering schools, seminaries, meeting the needs of laymen. The Church should be avant-garde and at the same time strong, burning. But there are also other important stages of her work, including economy. The Bishops’ Conference should make the government and politicians open their eyes to certain mechanisms, not to fear the truth. The role of the president is very important – to have courage and prudence, speak about dignity and justice in a peaceful and balanced way. In the light of God’s teaching he should analyse the possibilities that arise in the minds of Europeans and not necessarily reject them all. The Old Continent does not have to lose. We can still see a big victory of Christianity and Europe. After all the economy of the European Union was born in the minds of Catholics. Europe has a chance to preserve its identity and strength if it preserves its foundation – respect for the values that originated in the Christian culture. This is very important to the true economic development, order and justice, security of living. Therefore, wise steps of our bishops are important – simply missionary. The bishops presided over by their president will correct our contemporary uneasy lives, showing the right direction – God’s direction. We wish the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference His Excellency Archbishop Jozef Michalik to fulfil these big tasks that the Polish Church faces today.