CIRIL I MAKES THE FIRST STEP
The appeal to Poles and the Russians for the forgiveness of mutual harms and injustice includes a common message prepared by the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church. It is to be signed in the mid of August this year in Warsaw
The message is going to be signed by the representative of the Polish Episcopal Conference – Archbishop Jozef Michalik and the patriarch of Moscow and whole Russ – Cyryl I. Fr. Jozef Kloch, a press spokesman of the Episcopate acknowledges this document as the first document in history agreed by the representatives of the both churches. This message may mean a new phase of a dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. But no wonder – because – as Fr. Kloch stated – in the message the both churches are trying to ‘look together at their difficult common history’.
The visit of Cyryl I is unprecedented also for another reason. It is the first time when the patriarch of Moscow and whole Russ has been coming to Poland, who also officially meets with the supreme representatives of the polish country for the first time, including the President of the Third Polish republic and the representatives of the orthodox and Catholic Episcopate.
The patriarch is to stay in Poland on 16 – 19 August this year. He comes to the invitation of Archbishop Sowa, the Metropolitan of Warsaw and whole Poland, and bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church. First he will spend two days in the capital where he will meet with the representatives of the Polish Episcopate, the President Bronisław Komorowski and the Marshal of Senate Bogdan Borusewicz. Later he will go to Podlasie and visit Bialystok, Supraśl and Hajnówka. He will also visit Grabarka, the holy hill of the Orthodox believers where he will celebrate Liturgy on the occasion of the celebrations of Lord’s Transfiguration. The message, which is to be signed by Cyryl I and Archbishop Michalik in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, is to include a vocation to the mutual forgiveness and faults, but also to build the common future. The works on the document, conducted by a commission consisting of the representatives of the both churches, lasted for three years. The subject of the meeting between Cyryl I and the Presidium of the Polish Episcopate have not been decided yet, and are still being agreed. – However, it can be assumed that the hierarchs will talk about the defence of Christian values, about mutual relations and getting closer to each other by the both nations – says Fr. Kloch. After the finished talks, the representatives of the Polish Church will give Cyryl I the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, and the guest will give them the icon of Our Lady of Smolensk.
On the ground of the Gospel
As Fr. Jozef Kloch emphasizes, historical episodes in the message were touched only on the general level, because the task of the document is not solving painful cards of the history of Poland and Russia. Historians are to deal with it in the future.
An essential issue is to begin a dialogue, a vocation to unite people and the talk is to take place on the ground of the Gospel – we have the same sacraments, similar challenges towards the contemporary world and hence, as brothers in Christianity, we should and want to take a common attitude – says the chairman of the Polish Episcopate.
It is not known what was exactly written in the message, its text will be revealed only two hours before signing. As Fr. Kloch notes, the document undoubtedly announces the future, saying: ‘We forgive and ask for forgiveness, known from the 60s of the last century. But for the time being it is impossible to say so. ‘We are appealing to our believers, to ask for forgiveness of harms, injustice and any evil done mutually’ – one of the fragments of the message is to sound so. In the document there are not specified faults for which one should apologise or look for forgiveness. Cyryl I was saying about the beginning of the ‘new epoch in the relations of Russia with Poland’ during, among the others, the recent sacrifice of the Orthodox church in Katyń forest. It was built at the entrance to the so-called Memorial Place, whose part is the Polish post-war graveyard, which Poles – let’s add –took more than without enthusiasm.
– Katyń is a common grave of the Russians and Poles, a place of the common pain and common deep experiences. Nothing brings people closer than their common suffering. A time came to realize that Katyń is a terrible symbol of our common tragedy and, realising it – shake hands with the others, as our brothers and sisters – said the patriarch.
A problem with evaluation
Bishops were discussing the signing of the document about the reconciliation between the both churches during the debates of the polish Episcopate at the end of June this year. In the recent interview for the Catholic Informative Agency, Archbishop Henryk Muszynski stated that he would be careful to name the message a breakthrough. It is rather a beginning which – I hope – will open a new card of the common mutual action – he emphasized. The reconciliation, however, will not be possible without a fair evaluation of history. Generally, Polish politicians are restrained to evaluate the future visit. – The patriarch Cyryl I opens a new card in the relations with Poland and we must take an attitude towards it without any prejudice, understanding that he takes a responsibility for the process of reconciliation towards the faithful – says the Euro-deputy Pawel Kowal.
‘I have been observing the activity of Moscow Orthodox Church for many years and also the very patriarch Cyryl I and I have a problem with their positive evaluation’ – wrote the previous director of the Foreign Ministry in her blog Anna Fotyga. As she noted, the visit of the patriarch begins a day before the anniversary of the Warsaw Battle, a few weeks before the 400th anniversary of the battle at Moscow, lost by the Polish armies under the command of Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, and ‘chasing Poles away from Kremlin’, celebrated loudly in Russia since the year 2005. In this way, in the opinion of the parliamentarian, the Russians want to show poles their power.