Poland and Europe need solidarity
'The Third Polish Republic and Uniting Europe need solidarity and Christian vales if they do not want to become like a house built on sand' said Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz at the Solidarity Square in Gdansk. At Mass celebrated on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Trade Union 'Solidarnosc', the delegate of Pope Benedict XVI to the celebrations reminded us that solidarity meant responsible participation in the life of other people but most of all in the realisation of the common good.
1. God who is solidary with man has gathered us in great numbers at this jubilee altar today. Thanking God for today's liturgical gathering let us remember that his solidarity with us has a very long history.
The supernatural solidarity begins in the creation of man, who is called to participate in God's life. Although the original sin destroys the intention of the Creator, God who condemns the sin of the first parents shows solidarity with sinners, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life' (John 3:16). The Incarnation of the Son of God is the most complete expression of that supernatural solidarity and constitutes the realisation of God's promise, given to man after the original sin. The earthly life of Jesus, and especially his death on the cross, in its fullness showed what Christian solidarity, grown out of love and sacrifice for others, meant.
Therefore, the roots of solidarity are not in doubtful and temporary ideologies but in the eternal truth of the Good News Jesus Christ brought. The awareness, revived by faith, that we are all children of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, should prompt every man to solidarity with others. Proclaiming the programme of solidarity, arising from the Revelation, the Church carries out her mission of evangelisation and thus she serves complete development of every man.
This is a difficult way because man should overcome his inner weaknesses and external circumstances. And since it alone brings about salvific results one should courageously accept the programme of solidarity. And one should believe strongly that the Holy Spirit enables our inner being to fulfil tasks.
2. In the spirit of solidarity and on behalf of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who appointed me as his representative, I offer a cordial welcome to all of you gathered for this jubilee celebration. I greet the inhabitants of this magnificent city of Gdansk, its authorities as well as the inhabitants of other towns and villages. I want to greet Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski, zealous shepherd of the Gdansk Church, all cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and religious. I cordially welcome the representatives of other religious communities. I greet all members of the Independent Trade Union 'Solidarnosc' with its chairman Janusz Sniadek. With special respect I extend my greetings to Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, Members of Parliament and other representatives of public authorities. I direct my greetings to President Lech Walesa, whose merits for 'Solidarity' have been commonly known and recognised in the whole world.
3. Today we have gathered in Gdansk, at the Three Crosses Monument, commemorating the events of December 1970, in order to thank Lord God for the gift of 'Solidarnosc'. In 1981 the Holy Father John Paul II said here in Gdansk-Zaspa that 'Solidarnosc' was a great matter, which belonged to the national heritage of Poland. It is a great treasure and pride of our nation! The later transformations in Eastern-European countries showed that solidarity was not only a national value but also all-human heritage.
Is there any more suitable place to sing the hymn of thanksgiving 'Te Deum' than this place? 25 years ago in this city the workers spoke the word 'solidarity' in a new way and in a new context. The word was spoken with all strength and determination in the name of man's future. Since people could not longer tolerate the system, which was driven by hatred, that idea of the class struggle, nation against nation, man against man.
We do not forget that that historical mass rising of Polish workers, which happened on the Coast, and which resulted in the August agreements signed in Gdansk, Szczecin and Jastrzebie, was preceded by the Poznan June '56, the December '70 on the Coast and June '76 in Radom, Ursus and Plock. We also remember that believers made a major contribution to the growth of 'Solidarnosc'. The contribution of two outstanding shepherds of the Catholic Church: the Holy Father John Paul II and Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, is universally known. John Paul II can be called the father of 'Solidarnosc'. It was the Pope who officially received a delegation of the Union at a private audience in the Vatican in January 1981 and he delivered a speech, turning the public opinion all over the world to the significance and activities of 'Solidarnosc'. I want to refer to that historical meeting in the Vatican on 11 November 1996 when the father spoke to us: 'You are very close to me. Your problems, aspirations, concerns and joy, your efforts connected with your work I do carry deeply in my heart and offer them daily in my prayers'. The Primate of the Millennium who was steadfast in his quest for the truth and freedom, laid foundations so that the society could accept the spirit of solidarity. Numerous priests got involved in the work of 'Solidarnosc' and the scarifying efforts were confirmed by the martyr's death of the chaplain of 'Solidarnosc', the Servant of God Jerzy Popieluszko.
4. 'Solidarnosc' was a totally Christian movement since the virtue of solidarity constitutes an important element of the Catholic social teaching. Masses celebrated for the strikers, pictures of our Lady of Czestochowa and portraits of John Paul II hanging on the gates of the striking factories are a irrefutable proof that most workers and farmers confessed their faith in God and their activities were Christ-oriented.
Undoubtedly, it was the Union 'Solidarnosc' that formed the awareness of social subjectivity in the people who were afflicted by the totalitarian system. They felt their strength in the movement, realising that they could influence the course of social events. 'Solidarnosc' also inclined them to assume responsibility for the shape of social life. There were not only strikes, as the communist propaganda tried to present, but first of all changes in the environments of work and systematic reflections on work, which resulted in 'Ethics of solidarity', its patron being the outstanding Christian philosopher Fr Jozef Tischner.
Unfortunately, the marshal law destroyed those lofty desires to a considerable extent and pushed Poland off the social and moral renewal. Who could then have thought that Poland would belong to NATO and to United Europe?!
Our beloved Holy Father John Paul II expressed his regret over the imposition of marshal law in Poland. However, he never lost hope that 'Solidarnosc' would be restored and would influence future fate of Poland and the world. How significant were his words spoken during the memorable meeting in Gdansk-Zaspa on 12 June 1987! Many of us still remember that meeting and remember that after his words: 'Struggle cannot be stronger than solidarity' there was a long applause. Then John Paul II said, 'I just want to speak about this, so let the Pope say it since he wants to speak about you and also in some sense speak for you'. This protest of millions of afflicted workers, paid with sacrifice, suffering and even life, went down in a magnificent way in the contemporary history of our nation. Under marshal law numerous members of 'Solidarnosc' were interned, imprisoned as well as they lost their jobs, health and even life - the miners in 'Wujek' - they all paid for their courage. Numerous people and families were repressed; many were forced to make the choice of bitter bread of immigration. But fortunately, the Independent Trade Union 'Solidarnosc' has survived. Today we wholeheartedly thank all members of 'Solidarnosc', those who are alive and those who died. At this solemn moment we want to express our gratitude in a special way to the Servant of God John Paul II. Our independent homeland is to a considerable extent the result of his sowing. Without the memorable prayer of the Holy Father at the Square of Victory in June 1979 when he implored the Holy Spirit 'to renew the face of this land' there would be no 'Solidarnosc'. There would be neither 'Polish August' twenty-five years ago nor victory of freedom in Poland and in the world.
5. These historical transformations we are talking about today have contributed to contemporary history, as John Paul II said to the members of Parliament in 1991 - example and lesson that man, on his way to great aims of communal life, can choose the way of the highest aspirations of human spirit, walking on his historical route. He can, or rather should, choose an attitude of love, brotherhood and solidarity, attitude of respect for human dignity and human rights. So he can choose these values, which decided about the victory without so dangerous military confrontation in those times.
The Independent Trade Union 'Solidarnosc' was born out of concern for man, his spiritual and material needs as well as great responsibility for the common good of the nation. It released the need for dialogue and collaboration in various social issues of the workers, the intelligentsia and farmers, for the good of the nation. Although different, sometimes diametrically opposite, ideological trends merged in it, the union first of all referred to the national and religious tradition and aroused awareness of patriotism in people. It also made people conscious of the needs of others, especially the sick or the interned. Today the Third Polish Republic needs this spirit and Christian values and so do the United Europe and Uniting Europe if Europe does not want to suffer the same fate as a house built on sand.
6. 'Solidarnosc' made people aware of their self-value and dignity and their own rights, especially the right to freedom. In spite of the imposition of marshal law the feelings of freedom and dignity did not only survive but were strengthened as well. Thanks to that 'Solidarnosc' endured in hard times, led to political changes and made subjectivity and national freedom possible.
It is known that 'Solidarnosc' had a fundamental influence on the growth of consciousness of workers' union and workers' rights and on their written form in Polish legislation. The idea of solidarity penetrated our society, its expression being for example numerous humanitarian activities for those in need both in Poland and abroad. One should appreciate this wide and consistent action, which 'Solidarity' has carried out for the good of family and protection of human life.
7. Dear Brothers and Sisters! Times are changing, new problems immerge but the essence of the message of our Polish Solidarity, which we have been proud of and want to be proud in future, does not change. It is first of all the care for subjectivity of human labour. We can refer to the words of John Paul II - we want a new culture of work, which will consider people's material and spiritual needs, the culture that respects their fundamental rights.
Today, like 25 years ago, Poland needs a big collective solidarity of minds, hearts and hands; solidarity that can overcome divisions and divergences in order to build a more just, free and brotherly society in a consistent way. Poland's 'here and now' requires involvement and contribution in creating such economic, social, cultural and religious conditions, which will favour unity and stability of families, which will strengthen a feeling of respect for life and will protest against hidden reasons for violence and injustice; which will fight against all forms of disintegration of social tissue and present courageously models and strategies of development that can overcome clear cases of injustice, inequality, alienation, and even poverty; forms which will promote initiative, autonomy, co-responsibility, participation in public life; which will respect labour and will contribute, to a much greater extent, to the state in which work will become the right of every man, and unemployment that harms many families will gradually and systematically disappear from social life.
We cannot forget to mention the address of the Holy Father John Paul II, which he directed to you, dear union members, during the memorable meeting in the Vatican on the Independence Day in 2003: 'I have spoken several times recently about the problem of unemployment that is acquiring dangerous proportions in many parts of Poland. Apparently, it seems that the trade unions do not exercise influence on it. However, we should ask ourselves whether they could influence the engagement of new employees - since they appear to be hired more and more frequently on a temporary basis - or the method of dismissal, as they are fired with total disregard for the fate of the individuals and their families. Yes, "Solidarnosc" is clearly more active in the large firms, especially those that are State-owned. Yet we might well ask if the trade union pays enough attention to the fate of employees in small private firms, supermarkets, schools, hospitals or other institutions subject to the market economy, whose manpower cannot compare with those working in the mines or steel plants. Your union must openly side with the workers whose employers deny them their right to speak or to oppose phenomena that violate their fundamental rights'. The Holy Father continued, "May I say that today, if "Solidarnosc" truly desires to serve the Nation, it should return to its roots, to the ideals that illuminated it as a trade union. Power passes from hand to hand, and workers, farmers, teachers, health-care workers and all other workers, independently of the authority in power in the country, are expecting help with defending their rights. "Solidarnosc" cannot overlook this. Your task is difficult and demanding.' These words of the Holy Father are obligatory to all of us. One should restore the right to free
Sundays, fight with frequent cases of violation of the eight-hour working day, eliminate cases of inhuman treatment of workers or should care for worthy payment. We should remember that solidarity means responsible participation in other people's lives and above all, realising the common good. Finally, it is service like Christ served, 'For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45).
8. Yes. Thanks to 'Solidarnosc' much has changed on the Polish land and in the world. Today we thank Lord God for that. We are also aware that we need much effort and sacrifice to improve our national fate as well as the fate of the world. Following the footsteps of the Servant of God John Paul II, we dedicate our past, presence and future to the Blessed Mother, Queen of Poland. May she watch over our nation and the world. May she teach us to listen to Christ and follow his teaching. Amen.