IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CROSS
BISHOP ABTONI PACYFIK DYDYCZ
The second cadency of the Polish Episcopal Conference leadership of archbishop Józef Michalik, the metropolitan of Przemyśl is slowly ending
Every Primate of Poland had been both the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference, till the year 2004. It resulted from a provision in the statute at that time. It had been a tradition for centuries and, I think, it was necessary. Through years preceding this change – in undertaking tasks of the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference – the outer reality, except for the interwar period, was not friendly to the Church in Poland. Paradoxically, persecuted and looted during partitions, tortured during German and Russian occupations, slandered and creped in various ways in the years of communist governments, the Church often used the rights of authorities and dignity of primates. Although this authority was attacked by communist authorities, this system of governing Poland has never been supported so anywhere. And for this reason this situation concerning the post of the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference was good.
The first chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference through election
New has come. Unfortunately, not completely. For, the old lets us know about itself. But the Holy See and the Polish Episcopal Conference decided it was possible to make changes in electing the chairman on the basis of the majority election.
It was a big change. The first chairman of the election was archbishop Józef Michalik, a pastor of great engagement in the work of evangelization, completely devoted to ministry first to the diocese of Gorzów, and then to archdiocese of Przemyśl. He has a high sense of the spirit being in Vatican. Thanks to years of work in the dicastery concerning the Catholic laymen, especially formation of the youth, he met many prominent employees of the Holy See, and as a rector of the Polish Collegium he made a friendship in Rome with cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who used to stay in the Polish Collegium whenever he arrived at Rome. It was so also last time, when he arrived in order to take part in a conclave after the unexpected death of pope John Paul I. Thanks to it, Archbishop of Przemyśl, during the stay of blessed John Paul II in Krosno in the year 1997 was not surprised when in the presence of a thousand of pilgrims the Holy Father addressed many friendly words, beginning with the greeting: ‘Dear Józiu!’
I think that this close relationship not only spatial, but first of all ideological towards the person of John Paul II made it easier for Archbishop to enter into the new reality and assured a fruitful continuation of these assumptions and pastoral tasks, whose promoter was the Pope from Poland. The new Chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference did not have any difficulties with interpreting and implementing programs, expectations and even vision of blessed John Paul II in the parish life.
Therefore, this transition from statutory leadership to the leadership deriving from bishops’ elections was mild and fruitful. Speaking about it, one should thank cardinal Józef Glemp who could tactfully and quickly forget about the first plan on which he had been and still remained an active participant of meetings of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
Experiencing the cross
Certainly, in this ending decade, the new chair experienced the presence of the cross. I think that he must have painfully experienced the attack on priests which was visible on the following day after the passing away of John Paul II to Father’s Home in Heaven. Lustration undertaken selectively, without basing on solid legal rules, and first of all, deprived of factual assessment of alleged materials which were slanders in majority, passed in respect of promotion and material benefits, led to serious sufferings of the Church in Poland. We cannot question the significance of standing under the cross. But why is somebody innocent to experience it, who does not have any chance for defence…The Church was stronger in it. We should also thank those who have been under the pillory of media attacks.
Unfortunately, we were not happy about peace long. Our road of cross has been lasting for a long time. There are more and more attacks. Evil shows us that it is ready to question the basis of the Catholic faith. And it is looking for only pretexts . It does not like life defence , but if not the Church, then who is to defend human life? One even has an attitude of hatred towards the matters of nature, trying to ridicule them, although the evil gets discredited.
On the guard of faith and values
But there is no shortage of propagandists but if media in significant majority are not in the hands of previous administrators, they are in the hands of their students. These are not easy matters. And the man is suffering from it. However, archbishop Józef Michalik, being a pastor of an exceptional personal manners of behavior, takes all attacks peacefully and with dignity and is trying to stand on the guard of faith, respecting the dignity of every man and referring to love. The same can be said about his civilian attitude which demands somehow from itself not to keep quiet when it is necessary to defend values elaborated by previous generations which maintain in our times thanks to culture.
Polish culture, full of the evangelical spirit is a particularly fruitful ground, in which next generations can grow, developing it and sharing it with its surrounding. We do not always notice it but it is worth emphasizing that what is impressive for tourists visiting Poland, is our culture in which mores are strongly enrooted, being a kind of a clear comment to many religious events, written in an annual calendar. It is confirmed by any signs of culture present in art, customs and various inter-human references.
‘Niedziela’ knows the current Chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference and I think that he will make it easier for our sisters and brothers, through many authors, to get to know the teaching of archbishop Józef Michalik, so that they could be closer to the holy faith and love people more, as well as Poland, and the Church. And everything must be done with God’s blessing.