THE CHURCH IN POLAND – A GREEN ISLAND IN EUROPE
Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Cardinal Stanisław Nagy SCJ
Fr. INF. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - How would Priest Cardinal evaluate the state of spiritual culture of the Polish clergy of dioceses, male and female monasteries? The crisis of vocations for God’s service is noticeable today. Why has the problem of unaccepted grace started to exist in Poland?
CARDINAL STANISŁAW NAGY SCJ: - Prelate Priest touches on a very complex issue, on the one hand a very painful one, but on the other hand a quite optimistic one. That’s true that the work of the Church depends on the quality of clergy. Yes, we see the problem of departures from the Church. We, priests – from top to bottom – must make an examination of conscience about the phenomenon of Palikot: an evident anti-ecclesiastical fight against the Church. Those people used to be in the Church. Have we analyzed where their present attitude had come from? Beside that, although we have full churches, there are less and less believers in them. Young people, children are going away. Are the reasons for these departures being analyzed?
But here I must move on to another element – the positive one. Proudly but with humility, we must notice that the Church in Poland is a green island in Europe. We do not have empty churches, we see a phenomenon of their building, engagement of people. We are the Church which has priestly and monastery vocations. Indeed, a kind of decline has occurred but in comparison to Europe the issue looks rather positive. Despite that we must be vigilant about it and have our eyes wide-open, take care about young people, especially groups of acolytes, through encouraging the youth for prayer. But it is also necessary for parish priests to have their eyes wide-open also at girls at appearing vocations. I think that also monasteries should take care of their formation groups and a better help to young people in recognizing their vocation.
As for the polish clergy, it is also worth noting its role in missionary work. We have got something to be proud of – in this respect we even beat Ireland, Holland and other big missionary countries. We, Poles, are needed and people still rely on us. But here there is one missing thing which I would relate to a kind of oversight, maybe even from priests bishops, mainly ‘utilizing’ retired priests. Retired priests go away from parishes very frequently but they are still full of strength and could work on missionary areas where there is lack of priests. However, they are without priestly possibilities, although they could do a great favor – at least 10 years – where Christianity is collapsing because of the lack of priests. It seems to me that priests bishops, sending these priests to retire – could suggest them going to other countries where there is a lack of priests.
As far as female monasteries are concerned, we must show them great respect for the work they are doing. For me, John Paul II is still an example, who after the Holy Mass, before breakfast, always used to go down to kitchen to thank sisters for being with him and that they helped him in his life and work. In the Church nuns play a great role, but they must be appreciated, respected in their dignity and we must say to them: ‘God bless you for the work which they do on missions, requiring much effort. They are there and are counted in hundreds or maybe thousands.
– Does Poland pray? Do Poles love Jesus? Are Polish Catholics aware what the Holy Mass is, if over a half of them do not participate in it on Sunday? Why is it so?
– Indeed, many people do not attend the Holy Mass. What is worrying is the fact that it is not all about the youth which has been getting accustomed since the early age to miss the Holy Mass. Well – children go to the Holy Mass with their parents. Maybe we should return here – although it is still being practiced here and there – to the Holy Mass for the youth, during which young people would feel more in the community with Christ…But as far as the reasons for this absence are concerned, I think that one of the most basic reasons is also the fact that the mystery of the Holy Mass has not been understood well by our believers. Do sermons often say about the mystery of the Holy Mass? Are dogmatic lectures on the greatness and significance of Eucharist regularly given? Je we do not open people’s eyes onto what the Holy Mass is, for its deepness, they will not come to this Holy Mass. I think that today our preaching is suffering from the lack of dogmatics, fundamental theology and basic ethical principles. It is said to everybody what is the essence of faith. There are no fundamental issues in the pulpit: why I believe, what I believe and how I should live.
It also gives an answer to the question whether Polish Catholics pray. They pray somehow. But we must also ask: do we, priests, pray enough? How many of us do thanksgiving after the Holy Communion? Do all priests, apart from breviary, say the prayer of rosary?
– I must ask about the issue of Catholic media – as a vicar for a parish priest and a suffragan for a bishop, as bishop Teodor Kubina said years ago about the ‘Sunday’, it s founder. Today we have possibilities to use Catholic press, we have Radio Maryja and the Television Trwam, we have nearly 40 Catholic radio stations. Does the Church in Poland show enough care about a proper media communications of the Catholics in the opinion of Priest Cardinal? Shouldn’t we make a definite step in the Year of Faith so as to make families interested in the media? After all, their purpose is supporting their religious life, including the one of children and the youth…
– Priest touches on the issue which is connected with a kind of a novelty in the life of the Church, including the Polish one, mainly with the issue of internet and these audio-visual means which are accessible to people today. It is important on the ground of a phenomenon of the lack of reading. People stopped reading because they have internet and easy picture television and they consider these mass media as the sources from which they should learn the truth about life. This possibility is imposed at present so strongly that we can say here about violence towards reading. However, it does not mean the capitulation from Catholic books and press, although today we must use internet, and implement it into the trend of religious life.
However, we mustn’t resign from reading Catholic books or newspapers. Because people also read newspapers, although these are mostly periodicals which are flat, shallow and colourful. So, they should be provided with religious literature, especially in a form of Catholic press. Today graphic will be important, as well as a way of editing – the Catholic weekly must be also attractive, but only to some extent it can be full of pictures. And there is a great duty of a priest and bishop here. Parish where people do not read, is a parish which is going to get degraded more and more. And this must be understood by priests, even though they would have to add their effort or money to it. They must be convinced of it and do everything – especially in the Year of Faith – to teach this faith, and study it more and more. And they should know how to justify this faith. Therefore in our times this problem – what I believe and why I believe – should be strongly accentuated as a purpose of reading Catholic books and newspapers.
– I am sure that Catholic media play a role of catechesis for adults permanently: in the ‘Sunday’ we have the voice of the Pope, we give knowledge about what is happening in the Church all over the world, we inform about religious life in dioceses, there is a voice of bishops and theologians, we teach about Christian morality, we say about national culture, we present events which build it, religious factual materials are very rich – this all a conscious Catholic can gain through reading our weekly.
– Why am I with the ‘Sunday’, it is mine – like many other thinking people. I consider the ‘Sunday’ as a newspaper which meets the needs of a Catholic today.