BISHOPS FROM POLAND AND GERMANY TOGETHER AT JASNA GÓRA
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of letters exchange about reconciliation from 1965, Polish and German bishops met together at Jasna Góra on 22 November 2015. They were celebrating the Holy Mass together in the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady in the intention of reconciliation and peace in the world. The liturgy celebrated in Latin was presided over by archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, and homily was preached by cardinal Reinhard Marx.
Europe – our common homeland
We want to create our homeland Europe and the future of Christianity on our continent together – assured cardinal Marx and emphasized: ‘It is good that on the feast of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe we reminisce those bishops who initiated a new chapter in relations between our nations with the exchange of these letters’. – These were them who balanced a tight political horizon of their times and reigning political logics, giving a testimony for truth. They testified that the guilt which is acknowledged and regretted, can be forgiven and only then can there be a new beginning in relations among people and nations – said the chairperson of the Germany Episcopate.
Building the unity of Europe on Christianity
Before that, the chairperson of the Polish and German Episcopates signed a common statement about perspectives of development of relations between nations and the Church in our both countries. Bishops emphasized that the mission of the Church in both countries is creating the future in the spirit of reconciliation in Europe. ‘As the Church we want to be actively and strongly engaged in building the unity of Europe based on Christianity. We are Christians, we are Poles and we are Germans, but we are Europeans together!’ – we read in the document. It was noted in the statement that despite various kinds of progress, Europe is still suffering from existing wounds from the past. In relation to it, bishops of Poland and Germany declare their willingness to initiate reconciliation processes according to the example of the one which was possible to realize between our nations. Authors of the statement note with grief that on the European continent military conflicts and the war have not been overcome yet. They mention the situation in Ukraine, whose – as they emphasize – ‘territorial integrity has been strongly breached by separatists supported by the Russian Federation’. In the opinion of bishops, the crisis in Ukraine is also a challenge for the Church in Eastern Europe. ‘They are facing a difficult task again, not to get involved into a national policy of interests, but testify credibility of Christian message of peace’ – write bishops, emphasizing that they are ready ‘in humility and without any kind of an attitude of preaching to carry out talks with (…) orthodox co-brothers’.
Challenges for today
Referring to the events from 50 years ago, authors of the statement emphasized the historical merit of Polish bishops who had reached out their hands to German bishops in the gesture of reconciliation, which was reciprocated. ‘The Church freed itself from political dictate of the Cold War then and gave an example of a prophetic realism’ – wrote bishops. They added that participants of those events ‘in the extremely difficult circumstances they trusted the power of the truth and forgiveness’. Bishops of Poland and Germany emphasized that also today they owe Europe a testimony of faith. ‘We believe that if dignity of every man is understood as a gift from God, then our civilization will defend itself from going astray of feasibility and wrongly-understood self-defining’ – they stated in the statement. Signatories of the document explicitly express their attitude for defence of life in its all stages – from conception to natural death – and declare their support for family development. They express their belief that in the spirit of solidarity Europe should be engaged in actions for the sake of justice, peace and freedom for all people. They not that this task is still binding, especially towards crowds of people in the Near East and various parts of Africa, suffering because of terror and wars. ‘The Church in Poland and in Germany feels its duty of being in closeness with refugees. We all are called to help and support actions of our societies and governments’ – we read in the document.
Archbishop Gądecki about the Polish-German meeting
May thanks be to God for our today’s meeting at Jasna Góra – said archbishop Gądecki during the Polish-German ceremony. – Not remembering the old sins, we cannot understand today’s situation – emphasized the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference. – The Church cannot and should not accept the arrogant attitude of self-confidence today, or feel free from a sin and point only others’ sins or sins of the past as the source of evil. Confessing these sins does not free us from a duty of acknowledging sins of the present. It is to serve to awakening one’s conscience and open us a road for conversion – he added.
Archbishop Gądecki quoted words of archbishop Jósef Stimpfl: Polish bishops ‘in their far-sightedness have overtaken an epoch and in the name of Christian love, were the first to have reached out their hands towards the Germans, although – facing the enormity of harm done to Poles – this gesture should have come first from the Germans’, and what is worse, ‘German bishops did not appreciate this unusual step’’. The Polish hierarch emphasized that one of people who had not agreed then with this timid reaction, was Fr. Prof. Joseph Ratzinger . – In his letter to one of members of the Group from Bensberg, he wrote himself that he was ‘happy about this initiative for which he had been waiting long’ – added the metropolitan of Poznań and emphasized a significant fact that just the Episcopates of Poland and Germany had given the Church and the world two popes – John Paul II and Benedict XVI: - They are the example of friendship between our nations built on baptism – emphasized archbishop Gądecki.