A LETTER FROM POLAND INFLUENCED THE FORM OF TODAY EUROPE
LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ, THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF 'NIEDZIELA'
In his letter to German bishops from 1965, a German cardinal Karl Lehmann it called a miracle after the harm which Poles suffered from because of nasizm. He wrote: ‘we give our forgiveness and we ask for it’. The main author of this letter, called a message of Polish bishops is the archbishop Bolesław Kominek, the later cardinal and metropolitan of Wrocław. The editorial works were also done by: cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, archbishop Karol Wojtyła, bishop Kazimierz Kowalski, as well as bishop Jerzy Stroba. German bishops replied to this letter on 5 December 1965 very carefully and briefly. After 50 years since that event, cardinal Lehmann, in a reply prepared for the anniversary conference entitled ‘Towards a reconciliation’, held on 26 October 2015 in Rome, expressed his great admiration for Polish bishops who ‘found readiness in their hearts to forgive’ oppressors, despite the unimaginable harm which Poles experienced during the Second World War.
Today we can say that the message was an essential contribution of Poland to the unification of Europe, divided after the Second World War into political-military blocks hostile to each other. The voice of Polish bishops from 1956 initiated a deep reflection on the results of the Second World War and started breaking the mutual hostility and silence, aiming at reconciliation of the Polish and German nations, which was a very complex process because of bloody war wounds and a cold war in the international relations. Today we can state that the message of Polish bishops led to changes in the eastern policy and breaking the ‘iron curtain’. It made the West see the fate of eastern countries, especially Poland. The process of changes initiated with the message has got an unusual significance for whole Europe. The stopgap of the Polish-German border on the Oder and Nysa could be the reason for the future international conflict. Whereas, in 1970 an agreement about nominalization basics of relations in communist Poland and RFN was signed, and in 1972 pope Paul VI could establish a church organization on the conflicted Western Lands. In 1989 the Berlin was pulled down, a year later, after the unification of Germany, a boundary Polish-German agreement was signed, and in 1991 – a treaty about a good neighbourhood. The message from 1965 is treated now as a universal example of solving international conflicts basing on a dialogue, with usage of tools which are given by Christianity. At the mentioned Roman conference the great mufti of Sarajevo Mustafa Ceric said that he was proud of being a Slovak in regard to Poles who gave Kopernik to the world, as well as John Paul II and a letter of Polish bishops to the German ones.
Within the ceremonies of the 50th anniversary of the message in the Vatican Museums an exhibition entitled ‘Forgiveness and reconciliation. Cardinal Kominek, an unknown father for Europe’ was organized. The occasional exhibition will be opened also in Wrocław and in Berlin on 18 November 2015, that is, on the 50th anniversary of sending the letter to German bishops by the Polish ones. The main nationwide ceremonies of the anniversary of the letter were planned for 22 November this year at Jasna Góra. The anniversary Holy Mass in the intention of reconciliation and peace in the world will be celebrated by bishops from Poland and Germany. Historians and politicians think that contemporary Europe, looking for its identity, should inscribe the message into the canon of the most important documents.