THE POLISH GOVERNMENT WITH ITS EYES FIXED AT ZAPATERO?
The announced reduction of military chaplains by half is a kind of the policy of Zapatero – thinks Archbishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź. In the interview with the Catholic Information Agency the Metropolitan of Gdansk expresses his opinion that the words of the Prime Minister Tusk concerning the matter of chaplains in the Polish army threaten the relations between the State and the Church. The long-time Military Bishop of the Polish Army announces that the matter will be discussed during the planned discussions in the mid of March by the Common Commission of the Government and Episcopate.
TOMASZ KRÓLAK: - The Prime Minister Tusk announced the reduction in number of military chaplains by half. Does Priest Archbishop, as a long-time military Ordinary and member of the Common Commission of the Government and Episcopate think that the pronouncement of the Prime Minister will influence the relations between the State and the Church?
ARCHBISHOP SŁAWOJ LESZEK GŁÓDŹ: - We must remember about the fact that the relations between the State and the Church are measured through the relation to military Ordinaries. It is like a litmus paper, an alkali which turn out to be the same in other countries; as long as there is an attack on the military Ordinaries under the allegation of the budget and the reduction of permanent posts, military pastoral ministry will humiliated, as well as the Church will humiliated. We are experiencing it in Poland also today. The motto that chaplains cannot be the so-called ‘sacred cows’ is both offensive in the dimension of constitutional changes which have been taking place for over 20 years and in the dimension of this pastoral ministry which has been undertaken by priests-chaplains in the country and abroad; whereas the ominous announcements of the Prime Minister are a kind of the ideology of Zapatero, as well as a demagogy of a motto to much extent.
– But, in the opinion of Priest Archbishop, what does the matter of these permanent posts look like? – aren’t there too many of them?
– We should look rationally at the statement that if the army is smaller, there should be fewer chaplains. What is the situation in Europe and the world? It is usually assumed that one chaplain should be appointed for a thousand soldiers. When in 1991 in Poland the military pastoral ministry was being created, the state of the army was 400 thousands. I nominated two first chaplains: Fr. Tadeusz Dłubacz and Fr. Jerzy Syryjczyk (neither of them is alive today). We were practically starting with zero, and the military pastoral ministry was developing. Today the army amounts 150 thousands soldiers. But we mustn’t make such quick cuts and reductions.
– Are there any specific foreign examples to which we could refer, as far as the work and number of chaplains is concerned?
– We were not starting alone, but in a big international family. The entrance into the NATO was preceded by the creation of our military pastoral ministry and close contacts with priests from the United States, Italy, France, Germany, so from those countries where the care of chaplains for armies had already been formed. We had contacts not only with Catholic priests but also protestant priests, for example Denmark. So we took an example of those realities.
– The announced present reduction of military chaplains by half is a kind of a policy of Zapatero, because this situation was experienced by a Spanish Military Ordinary during the reigns of the Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero; or maybe he is a kind of ideal or model?
– In 1995 as a Military Ordinary, in Warsaw we organised the first international conference. It was attended by over 30 delegations from different countries, including Turkey. But it was also attended by observers from Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia and Czech Republic because they were just preparing for creating their own military pastoral ministries and they wanted to learn it from us. We had similar contacts with Russia, whereas the conference ‘Partnership for Peace’ organised in Biedrusk was attended by American Generals and we were in the centre of their attention. The Americans invited us to participate in different meetings, and I was a guest in Pentagon where I had a meeting with a leader of the American army gen. John Shalikashvilim and the chief chaplains of those armies. When we were entering the NATO, the Military Ordinariate was something normal. In the military cathedral there was a great celebration on this occasion attended by president Kwasniewski, the prime minister, etc.
So the military pastoral ministry does not work in Poland in an isolated way, but it is included in a big family of related countries; whereas today we are standing in front of a kind of recidivism because the third military bishop has been in a difficult situation since the constitutional changes. It was me who receive the first attacking blows just after 1991. There were still political leaders about whom the present superior of Army Forces of the Polish Republic Bronisław Komorowski knows. At that time he was holding the post of a vice-minister of the National Defence responsible for upbringing. And at that time there was the motto: There used to be the Reds and now the Blacks have arrived. It lasted from 1991 to 1993. During the reigns of the Prime Minister Oleksy people started thinking how much the maintenance of the military pastoral ministry costs, and after that there were big cuts in the budget, and to such an extent that during my stay in Vatican I presented this matter to Pope John Paul II and the State Secretary Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Two weeks later president Kwasniewski paid an official visit to Vatican. I know from both the Vatican sources and the president that the Pope touched on the issue of Ordinariate as the second matter asking about how a military bishop and military pastoral ministry were treated; whereas it was a matter number one during the talk of the president with the State Secretary. We must remember that the structure of psychologies remained in the army. Today, in this reduced army by half we have 354 of them. I do not question the role of the psychologists but nothing is said about them, whereas the matter of chaplains is presented as a problem. When a river overflows somewhere in Podkarpacie, media say about that psychologists went there in order to support those who are harmed. However, the mayor of villages is waiting for authority representatives, expecting money, not psychologists. The motto about excessive number of chaplains had already been undertaken in ‘Armed Poland’ by gen. Bogusław Pacek last year. At present this general does not even know how many wounded or killed people there were.
– And what is the role of the military pastoral ministry outside the structures of the army?
– First of all, there are three military pastoral ministries having their Ordinary: Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical. We fulfilled a very helpful role towards the related nations. Bishops, priests from Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia used to come to us, looking at building of our Military Ordinariate. They have been regularly participating in pilgrimages to Jasna Góra since 1993. Later, we also included Germany. In 1991 there was the first meeting with Bundeswehra; it had a reconciliation character. I remind this fact to the superior of Military Forces of the Polish Republic, President Bronisław Komorowski with whom at that time we and the German vice-minister of Defence were going to Jasna Góra on foot for a meeting with the Holy Father. On the Apologetic hill near Częstochowa I said to German Generals and soldiers: ‘Look how the times have changed – your grandfathers used to go from Częstochowa to Warsaw and today you go the same way but in the opposite direction and with how different intention. The Prime Minister Buzek liked this sentence very much and said to me that he would use it in his pronouncement in Brussels. I remember the meeting at a bonfire on the area of barracks in Opole where there were delegations of German, French and Polish armies. There were concerns whether there would not be any conflict between our and German soldiers but everything went very well. Since that time the soldiers of Bundedwehra have been going in pilgrimages from Warsaw to Częstochowa every year and seven German Generals go with them through the Alleys of the Holy Virgin Mary to Jasna Góra. In 2004 in the Embassy of Germany I received a Great Cross acknowledged to me by the president of this country, for the reconciliation between the soldiers of both countries. These are facts!
– What role is the Military Ordinariate playing today?
– It is an important factor of creating a country because it came to the closeness between the Polish Army and the society which started to be called ‘our army’. The fact that it is professional today does not mean that these are hired troops, killers, mercenaries. We have non-commissioned and commissioned officers’ school where there are chaplains and cadres must be educated also in the field of ethics. They must be brought up in the national, patriotic and ethical ethos. They must know the international law. The next factor of creating a country is that the Church lends its authority to the army and not the other way round! There is pacifism is standing behind the door and the government must be aware that it is a big danger for safety of the country and social harmony. This pacifism is present in schools of Germany, Spain, France and it can be brought to Poland at any time, whereas the Church uses its authority for the army; it favours the fight against terrorism. After all, in Afghanistan our chaplains stand on the guard every day and night. This is not Hawaii or sweet ground as I hear on TVN. Let’s take the Smolensk tragedy: who thanked the priest-chaplains for their great help during the identification of bodies in Moscow during funerals of victims, service in Torwar where coffins were transported. Who thanked the nuns who joined the mission in Russia?
– Does Priest Archbishop think that President Komorowski, mentioned in the talk several times, will want to influence the prime minister in order not to realize the announcement of the radical cut of chaplains’ permanent posts?
– The president is not a stranger standing aside, but the superior of the Military Forces of the Polish Republic. Secondly, he was at the base of creating the military pastoral ministry and he has been a minister of National Defence twice. Also Radosław Sikorski, a minister of Foreign Affairs and the former chief of Defence Department, knows very well what role chaplains play in the army during foreign missions. The military cathedral in Warsaw was visited by prominent worldly politicians, among the others, presidents of the United States and Germany, a minister of the Defence of Russia and many other foreign politicians and generals. This all is a kind of good results and nobody should speak about any ‘sacred cows’, because it degrades both our achievements and the presence.
– Does Priest Archbishop hope that the prime minister will withdraw from his announcement?
– We must understand it in the category of responsibility for the word. For this purpose, in the agreement with the government, a military bishop was nominated, in order to – in the agreement with the minister of National Defence – be able to regulate the issue of chaplains; whereas the motto solutions are only irritating and cause a radical division between the Church and the State. I repeat: relations the Church- the State are measured by the relationship towards the military pastoral ministry, that is, a litmus paper.
– Will the issue of the controversy about the Military Ordinariate be a subject of discussions of the Common Commission of the Government and Episcopate soon?
– We all know that the atmosphere is bad but I think that the Common Commission should take place and also these issues are going to be a subject of our discussions. We are also going to talk about the Fund of the Church. For, it cannot be a situation when only one party has its voice in such a serious matter because it is a breach of the international agreement (that is the concordat – according to the Catholic Information Agency). These are very important issues.