GUARDING A REAL IMAGE OF CHRIST
Fr. inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with archbishop Wacław Depo – the metropolitan of Częstochowa, the chair of the Council for Mass Media of the Polish Episcopal Conference
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: – Before the last conference of the Polish Episcopate, mass media, especially the liberal ones, presented Archbishop as a hierarch who is dangerous for everybody. It was a very significant suggestion both for bishops facing the election of the chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference and for believers…I must admit that we, in Częstochowa, are glad that Excellency has remained in the function of St. John the Apostle in Efez and will be still visiting Our Lady at Jasna Góra like before. But let’s return to the issues of the conference which has showed the Church in Poland very objectively as the Church working not only in the Polish reality but also in the worldly reality, among the others, through acting in the Polish Organization Caritas…
ARCHBISHOP WACŁAW DEPO: – I cordially thank you for solidarity with my person and sharing my duties and responsibility for the sequences which were given to me. Regardless of what faces and opinions will be given to me, my program is still the same: lead people to Christ so that they could find the truth in Him, as well as their path and their life. I am grateful to Prelate Priest that in the recent Appeal Prayer of Jasna Góra to Our Lady, he was thanking for my person – ministry to Jesus’ Mother is my current task which was also confirmed by the Apostolic Nuncio, welcoming me recently in Warsaw with the very obliging title of ‘Minister of the Queen of Poland’. Being near Jesus’ Mother and showing the mysteries of Her Son in the life of the Church is my constant task, both towards co-brothers in bishopric ministry whom Our Lady hosts them here at a meeting – and my role here is the role of a pastor – as well as towards God’s people of our homeland and abroad who arrive here in order to learn from Him their entrustment to God.
The last conference of the Episcopate (12 and 13 March 2014) had a character first of some thanks for the gift ‘Ad limina Apostolorum’. The Holy Father Francis, who hosted us, showed us his trustfulness which we wanted so much, especially that we are facing extremely important tasks, such as preparations for the 1050th anniversary of baptism of Poland or the World Youth Days in 2016, but also the ones which are everyday work of the Church. We know that what we do through active going out towards the man, is understandable and confirmed with blessing of the Holy Father Francis.
Therefore also the task of Caritas, as a kind of option of the work of the Church is nothing new because the Holy Father blessed John Paul II had pointed out to a kind of very important light – the so-called imagination of mercifulness. These two words contain a program of perceiving another man in his basic spiritual and material needs, but, first of all, the fact that every man must discover that he is the value himself and for himself.
It is good that at last a lot is said about the Polish work of Caritas – its everyday efforts were often presented in media. The work of Caritas was pushed aside on the margin even at schools, volunteers’ groups or particular apostolic offices in parishes or dioceses – in order to promote the so-called secular style of Caritas, which is presented by the Great Orchestra of Holiday Help and other similar actions.
– The General Meeting of the Episcopal Conference also touched on the issue connected with the Convention of the Europe Council about counteracting violence towards women and domestic violence. Here we are somehow dealing with perversity because the issue entails the problem of redefining some terms…
– We use the same words but they are given a different sense. We speak about counteracting violence towards women, but the basic area is the clash between sexes. A lot of attention is given to injustice towards the very natural system - a woman is the weakest being, so she is abused and it must be prevented. The very term of a woman and a man is redefined – and also the terms of marriage and family – and relativism of using these terms is introduced, which causes commotion and does not help people live. It is not a direct attack but treacherous satan’s method of fighting an opponent.
– It is also important that bishop should have a clear opinion here, so as not to raise any doubts about matters which are very important in the human life. Because the opponent is doing newer and newer intellectual manipulations…
– Here I will note one more concealed plan. This kind of draft was submitted to the parliament in July, when people had been on holiday. Later it was said that it had already been voted over, and MPs had discussed it and that there had been social consultations. It is also manipulation of some drafts of acts and provisions.
– It happened well that the Episcopate has expressed an attitude about the gender ideology recently. Thanks to it, many issues were explained to people. Hence, there is such an attack of liberal secular media on bishops in Poland.
– Unfortunately, one can notice that if there is more freedom in our nation, and there appear better life conditions, governing people do not the Church so much and they push it aside onto the margin of life. Only when there appear social anxieties, the Church is invited to a discussion, to express its attitude - shortly speaking, it is only needed for pacification of social atmosphere. The attitude of the Episcopate about the gender ideology was expressed in the letter on the feast of the Holy Family, and not it has been reminded. Bishops do not agree on manipulation or redefinition of marriage, family, dignity of a woman and a man. After all, the teaching of the Church is clear and emphasizes that it is necessary to reprimand people ‘now and then’ (see 2 Tm4, 1-5), because it is not only the light of our human reason, but it is God’s law which shows us a path of solving difficult situations.
– We are all experiencing the problems connected with Ukraine. The nation which hoped to join the European Union, was pacified in Kremlin, and, before that, many people had been wounded, and also killed. How do bishops perceive this difficult problem which is also connected with our common difficult history?
– Here we must reflect on the issue of peace. Enjoying peace for a few dozen years in this part of Europe and the world, we might have allowed for being dormant and we believe that peace results from the balance of military forces or political systems. Whereas it results from one heart. If it is directed to self-efficiency, power and widening borders, then every act of manipulation - whether it will take place in Ukraine, Russia or any other country – sooner or later it will require sacrifice and devotion. The rule: divide and govern’ has a strong form today: first people are divided in the same country, in the same nation and later rights of particular nations are indicated, like in the case of Russia, which says that it must defend its citizens. Unfortunately, this scenario has already brought catastrophic consequences in history, and its tragic example is the Second World War. Moreover, this making the nation dormant by various diplomatic operations should be seen in the category of a fault. Whereas, it is something different with a very painful chapter of our common history of war or post-war years, when we were not allowed to speak about the great sacrifice of Poles’ blood and death of thousand innocent people.
– Polish bishops show their great openness and brotherly relationship the Ukrainian nation.
– Yes. Therefore we encourage everyone to every kind of help to the Ukrainians, either through particular donations and gifts, given via Caritas or the gift of prayer which is always so valuable. Despite various types of blockades, we are always together. Solidarity, that is, co-carrying the cross of struggles for freedom and democracy is our task.
– I will return again to the atmosphere which was animated by media before the Episcopal Conference during which its chair was to be elected. Does the term ‘bishop of Mary’ diminish Christocentrism in pastoral ministry? Does cult to Mary is somehow important in life and missionary work of the Church today? What does Archbishop think about it?
– Still before my journey to Rome with the visit ‘Ad limina’ I had received signals that media programs had been being prepared, as well as some texts in magazines (I will not mention their titles) about my person: the past, various relationships, places of my pastoral work. And I will admit that I had then said to myself that I would not watch or read it, although somebody would tell me today that: lack of knowledge of some things is my fault. I understood that I had to be free from what is a distorted picture of my person, first of all, as the human being. And today I have a right to ask everyone who was making a film, was preparing a report or expressed an opinion about me: Have you ever meet with me personally, have you ever had a possibility of a thorough, objective getting to know my person? Please note that also no answer of mine to this kind of texts was interpreted in the way that I spoke only in extreme Catholic media, that I did not accept an invitation from anybody else. A complete nonsense! No matter who enters the area of my action: either in the space of Jasna Góra or a Polish parish, or during my presence in an event – I always try to be open and answer all questions. Maybe somebody did not find the so-called ‘tricky points’ in the collected material which might have been aimed against me…. And, therefore, the only ‘accusation’ has been made: my relationship with Radio Maryja and, as it is defined – with the so-called media of Toruń. But media from Toruń have their faces and characteristic features – like ‘Niedziela’ or other media which pass the image of the Church, the voice of its pastors, doing it in their own way. Everyone is responsible for how he interprets some phenomena, how he believes in what he reads, watches or listens to. Another issue: nothing has ever been mentioned in the collected material about my educational work as a rector of a seminary. A lot has been said about me only in the category of an academic priest, as a man of allegedly different image, through my relationship with the late bishop Jan Chrapek. It is another example of manipulation which is unjustified. If my supervisors were bishop Chrapek and later bishop Zimowski (archbishop at present), then I had an assigned role and a task to fulfill. Today my task is – through faithfulness to this place which is Jasna Góra with its cult to Mary – to pass the image of Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. Whereas, media are trying to take over competence of the Church Magisterium and interpret the teaching of blessed John Paul II or the current pope Francis in their own way, whose statements and attitude are set according to a particular key. Therefore, my task, which is very basic towards any mass media is guard the real image of Christ who is in the Church.
– Believers got used to the presence of Archbishop during the Jasna Góra Appeal Prayer. When Your Excellency does not participate in it, they ask why. It is precious that from Jasna Góra we can receive visible blessing from the Minister of the Queen of Poland…
– Thank you for reminding it, which is also an obligation. And, indeed, I am perceived in this way. Just after the General Meeting of the Polish Episcopal Conference, I was glad to be invited to Frankfurt on the Main, in order to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to 45 young people in the Polish Catholic Mission, who had arrived in the church with their families in plenty. This place on the west border is extremely connected spiritually with Jasna Góra, and in the side chapel of the church there is an image of Our Lady of Częstochowa, our Queen, given by the deceased cardinal Józef Glemp as a gift for Polish Diaspora. Parish priest, who was presiding over the ceremony said that on that day not only was the pastor of Częstochowa present in the community, but also the person connecting with Jasna Góra. My presence in that place was a gift on both sides. But I am glad that I returned home and I will be able to confirm these gifts which we receive through the intercession of Mary with my prayer and blessing.