Fr. Ignacy Skorupka and numerous Polish soldiers died for Christian Poland and Europe in 1920. Our task is to preserve that heritage
He died for Christian Europe
On the occasion of blessing of the monument to Fr Ignacy Skorupka
Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus
In his last book entitled 'Memory and identity', most regrettable Holy Father John Paul II, reflecting again on the mystery of iniquity in the history of mankind and on the struggle between good and evil that was waged from the beginning of mankind, quoted the words, which the genial German poet Goethe put in the mouth of Mephistopheles in his know work 'Faust': "Ich bin ein Teil von jener Kraft, die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft" ('Part of that Power which would the Evil ever do, and ever does the Good'), [act I, scene 3].
John Paul II quoted those words to emphasise that God Almighty is greater than the most powerful forces of iniquity and that at the last count Good always wins although the way of the cross of passion and blood that was shed lead many a time to this victory.
The feast we are celebrating now confirms this eternal conviction that the truth and the good always win in the end. The truth about the war with the Bolsheviks and its heroes in 1920 was consistently falsified for half a century. In numerous pseudo-historical publications, in totally controlled media and in school teaching the patriotic deed of those heroes was slandered or at best dismissed with complete silence and condemned to be completely receded from social and national awareness. Instead of honouring true heroes, the traitors of the Fatherland and fierce enemies of its independence were praised. Numerous monuments were erected to them. Their lives were to be examples to follow by new Polish generations.
Sixteen years ago, thanks to Divine Providence, we received freedom and independence in a miraculous way - without war, without a sea of blood, without war damages, without orphans, cripples and widows. We received those magnificent gifts, which the most wonderful Poles fought for throughout centuries, the Poles who sacrificed without hesitation and calculation everything, including health and life, for the cause of Poland's freedom. They lived and died in the conviction that there were greater values than their physical lives. One of the Polish poets of the last war, who was killed in the fight, expressed that in a moving way, writing the following words, 'If there were no more important values than life it would be better to hit death with the head, like falling in the mud'.
In 1920 those numerous Poles thought in a similar way. They answered the call of the Homeland that rose from the dead after centuries of slavery and they left their estates, houses, basements, living quarters and cottages, their places of work, farms, universities and schools and unskilfully took rifles and sabres in their hands, which were not used to war, in order to shield Motherland from blows of barbarian hordes. They went to battle like numerous generations of their forefathers, who in many wars and battles saved Poland and often the whole Europe from invasions of barbarian plunderers and fanatical Muslim warriors who wanted to destroy Christian culture in the last millennium.
Someone can say that this is pathos. It does not matter. Pathos is due to heroes. Since it is heroes that deserve eternal memory and monuments, which commemorate their sacrifice.
One of such heroes, symbolising many others, was Fr Ignacy Skorupka. He knew well where the place of a Polish priest was when a battle for Fatherland was waged. He knew well the importance of his presence and priestly ministry, his mobilising words for the soldiers who defended the country. He was with them to the end. Like many of them he fell in action, although instead of guns he held a cross, symbol of salvation and love greater than death, which he used to bless his fighting brothers.
It is good that although 85 years passed from the heroic death of Fr Ignacy Skorupka we can experience the ceremony of blessing a monument commemorating his heroic sacrifice and we can pray for those who saved Poland, and even all Europe, from the Bolshevik, cruel, atheistic barbarity.
In today's Gospel passage from St Matthew we found very important and valid words of Christ directed to all his followers, living in all times: 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell [...] So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven' (Matthew 10: 28. 32-34).
The Poles of the year 1920, which is 85 years ago, did not fear death of their bodies. However, they feared the terrible threat to the soul of the nation. Therefore, they fought with such bravery. And that's why they won. Since the point is that there are more important values than physical life. It was about the European culture, formed by Christianity, which was in danger.
In 1920 the Polish people met the evangelical requirements. Risking and sacrificing their lives in the battle with militant atheism they declared for Christ in public. We have no doubts that at God's judgement, where almost all of them stood, Christ declared himself for them in the presence of his Father, the Judge of the whole world.
Those Polish and foreign historians, who are objective and are not influenced by ideologies, have no doubts that the Polish victory over the Bolsheviks saved Central and Eastern Europe from the Soviet totalitarianism. Europe had twenty years to become established and strengthened after the damages of World War I as well as had time to understand the danger of the communist ideology better.
However, that victory did not stop the origin of the Hitler's totalitarianism, which aroused from the same ideological and philosophical roots as the Bolshevik totalitarianism. Up till now we have not been able to imagine the scope of evil those two totalitarian ideologies did because that has exceeded the capacity of human imagination. It is not without reason to call the 20th century, in which those ideologies raged, a Good Friday in the history of mankind.
Although Hitlerism and communism ceased to exist in almost all Europe and although they we condemned and their promotion forbidden, we should not forget about their ideological and philosophical roots. Since these roots have remained, and unfortunately, they are sprouting shoots that are destructive to mankind.
For they have not disappeared. Moreover, in our times, especially in many Western countries, important political, social and economic powers as well as big media and many intellectual and culture-creative centres are under considerable domination of atheistic ideologies, which originated from those anti-Christian philosophical trends of the Enlightenment that stirred up the French revolution, being guilty of millions of innocent victims, as well as other revolutions, headed by the Bolshevik one. Unfortunately, in many contemporary countries all those domineering ideologies have one element in common: they have removed God, the Decalogue and Christian morality from public life. Another common characteristic is relativism that hates the difference between good and evil and between the truth and falsehood. Extreme pragmatism, allowing to treat human life instrumentally, is another common element. These ideologies also share absolutization of freedom without any moral borders and without consideration of the fundamental principle that freedom of one man ends where the just rights of another man begin. All these ideologies share contempt for natural law, which does not allow the aberrations, which deserve lament and compassion, to be regarded as something natural and worthy of powerful media and political promotion, at the cost of family and marriage understood as a relationship between woman and man. Furthermore, those ideologies, which do not take into account God's laws, share the so-called political correctness that destroys religious, national and cultural identity, trying to convince millions that all things in the world have the same value, that there are no objective values, that everything is subjective and changeable, and that various irregularities have priority over normality. They also share the conviction that today the criterion of objectivism is only fulfilled by empirical knowledge, with no restricted researches even if these pose great threats to mankind, which we are regrettably facing. We do not remember that knowledge devoid of conscience, knowledge without objective ethical norms, leads to results that have horrible consequences. We often forget that a scholar is not allowed to do everything he can just as we cannot harm another man even if we could do that without any legal consequences. We forget that science, in spite of its enormous, indisputable and positive significance, is not able, even if it were maximally developed, to substitute religion because it is not able to answer the fundamental existential questions of man concerning sense and purpose of his existence, the sense of suffering, etc.
The consequences of throwing God out of public life of nations were understood by Friedrich Nietzsche, great German philosopher who lived in the second half of the 19th century, before the rise of communism and fascism, and who was not friendly towards Christianity. In one of his addresses, directed to European intellectuals of his times, who upheld atheistic philosophies and in their works prepared the principles of life without God, he asked the following rhetorical question: 'What do I see, you have murdered God in your minds and hearts and you think that you would get off scot-free?'
Several dozen years later it occurred that his words were prophetic. The Russian, German, French and other intellectuals, who idolatrously worshipped reason, and other people who removed Christianity, God and his Decalogue from public, social and scientific life, did not get off scot-free. They themselves, together with millions of innocent human beings, we wiped off from the surface of the earth by godless totalitarianisms that did not fear God, which despised his commandments, which did not take into account the natural law, which treated man in an instrumental way and which murdered him without any scruples.
Numerous contemporary legislators and European leaders - politicians, people of the media and others who on the one hand keep talking of protection of human rights and on the other hand, use various ways to spread secularism that is hostile towards religion, especially the Catholic faith, and violates these rights in a barbarian way - evidently forgot Nietzsche's warning. They forgot Nietzsche's warning since they make laws that accept murder of innocent people in abortions and euthanasia, clearly violating the natural law; because they fiercely opposed any mentioning of God and Christianity, essential sources of both Euro-Atlantic culture and human rights in general, in the project of European constitution, which has been rejected by some nations so far.
The above-mentioned contemporary Aeropaguses, i.e. politicians, people of the media and legislators, looking for false freedom that rejects God's commandments, yielded to Satan's treacherous promise: 'If you oppose God, you will be equal to him and you yourselves will be like gods', just as the first parents did. People who yield to this temptation seem to think that they can do everything that they can stand above God and his Decalogue and it is them, and not some God, that will decide what is true and what is false as well as what is morally good and what is morally evil. And meanwhile, in spite of their too big self-esteem, they remain weak, fragile and very limited in their human capabilities. They are not able to replace God. They are not able to make paradise on the earth. But they can make hell of it. And as history tells us they make hell now and then for many innocent people.
Currently, the Western civilization is waging a ruthless war against horrible Islamic terrorists. It is a war without borders and fronts. The war with defenceless, innocent victims, who are murdered all of a sudden. But has our Western civilization enough internal strength to oppose this aggression that Christians cannot understand? Is it morally strong enough?
Unfortunately, we are to doubt it. What can the Western societies, which reject God and Christianity, contrast with Islamic fanaticism? They have not much more than a vision of fun society; not much more than anarchic freedom expressed in abortion and euthanasia, which are unrestricted by any moral laws; not much more than egoism, extreme individualism, overwhelming eroticism and consumption race at all costs, promoted by omnipresent advertisements.
Generally speaking, the main cause of death of great civilisations in the history of mankind was not an external enemy. The main cause has always been the internal, moral disintegration of societies, which enemies used.
Is it not the lack of any stable moral principles a symptom of the process of collapse of Western civilisation? Can unquenchable eroticism and sex, shopping, continuous fun and consumerism, which worship money instead of God and make people go shopping in supermarkets instead of praying, be values that will ensure existence and development of the Western civilisation? Are they such values, which we would like to defend against terrorism or any totalitarianism and win?
The great minds of our times, even if some are far from Christianity, for example the outstanding contemporary philosopher Juergen Habermas, notice the extremely dangerous lack of balance between technical possibilities of the Western civilisation and its rapidly increasing moral crisis. That's why Habermas has recently made a stirring appeal to all politicians who are responsible for the fate of contemporary societies, and to all authorities so that they all, in spite of their views, mobilise all moral strength to save our civilisation.
In this situation one is simply horrified by the blindness and extreme irresponsibility of those who in order to realise their pitiful ambitions by winning the votes of the extreme electorate, and in the name of the same atheistic ideologies and philosophies, including Trotskyism, which caused the anarchic student revolt of 1968, fight, systematically and according to some plan, against the Christian vision of man and reality. These are those who evidently promote moral evil, who aspire to introduce laws that are contrary to the Decalogue; who attack the Catholic Church on all occasions, treating her as enemy number one that hampers their reforming the world with our God, and as the main obstacle in the process of building a mythological paradise on the earth.
Nihil novi sub sole, the ancient used to say. There is nothing new under the sun. Today atheistic liberalism, in spite of its mottoes about tolerance, treats the Church as unfriendly as the representatives of totalitarianisms and infamous revolutionists treated her in the past. Last autumn the eminent Italian Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council 'Iustitia et Pax' spoke in his address to diplomats how the contemporary Western establishment treated the voice of the Church, which it allegedly wanted to have a dialogue with. According to Cardinal Martino, in some countries the voice of the Catholic Church is 'deliberately drowned out by din and tumult caused by powerful cultural, economic and political lobby, which is mainly governed by prejudices against anything Christian. 'That lobby carelessly and joyfully promotes', Cardinal Martino continued, 'a confusion of the role of sexes, it ridicules marriage between man and woman, attacks life that is the object of the most extravagant experiments. The dock of that lobby, being some kind of contemporary Inquisition, full of money and arrogance, consists of first of all the Catholic Church and Christians, no holds barred in order to force them to silence; the lobby uses threats, public contempt as well as cultural discrimination and marginalisation'.
These were the words of Cardinal Martino. They were clearly confirmed by the known case of the Italian European Parliament member, outstanding philosopher Rocco Buttiglione, whom the atheistic liberals did not allow to assume a very important post in the European Parliament for the sole reason that he did not hide his Catholic convictions.
The Church has been prepared for attacks and misunderstanding for ages. However, the Church does not stop admonishing those who have gone astray, and proclaiming the Gospel, which she has been called to because her fundamental task is to convert human hearts to God. The Church will do that till the end of the world, regardless of persecutions, criticism and court trials. She will always remember the evangelical message to straighten human paths. She will always be clearly aware that God the Just Judge will hold her accountable for the fulfilment of this missionary commandment. God will hold each of us accountable for what we have done with the Gospel and the priceless gift of faith. God will hold accountable every bishop, every priest and every Christian.
The Church has been in Europe for two thousand years. It was her that created its culture on the basis of the ancient heritage. It was her that began modern science, which explained reality in a mathematical way, the modern science, which the Church adopted and which is used by the whole world. It was the Church that founded first schools and universities. It was her that opened first hospitals, orphanages and houses for the elderly. It was her that taught Europeans medicine, taught them to farm, grow cattle, build roads, bridges, etc. It was her that provided a bond, which cannot be replaced by any other, and which is so much needed today in the light of newer and newer threats.
Christians should not feel inferior when their beliefs are attacked and ridiculed. They are not an alien body and layer on the true European civilisation. In 1920 the Polish soldiers, the heroic Polish towns fighting against the aggressor, and the above-mentioned Fr Ignacy Skorupka fought and died for Christian Europe. The fought for such Europe, which after the horrible World war II was effectively built by the magnificent charismatic statesmen: Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. It is not a coincidence that these four men were pious Catholics. After the horrible sufferings, which the two godless totalitarianisms brought to European nations, the totalitarianisms, which tried to create new Europe on the basis of war against God and on hatred, having seen the havoc caused by the godless, the above-mentioned Catholic statesmen discerned that Christians could not limit their faith to the private sphere and leave all political, social, cultural and scientific life to the godless. They concluded that in accord with the social Catholic teaching Christians had the right, what's more, the obligation to change the whole world in the spirit of the evangelical values such as peace, bread and care for the poor, solidarity between people and nations, respect for every man and all nations, religious freedom, democracy, elimination of the domination of the strong over the weak, rejection of exploitation and aggression from social and economic life as well as international relationships and development in all fields. Those politicians concluded that Christians had the duty to introduce evangelical values into political life and that they could not distance themselves from political life and allow the enemies of Lord God govern the nations. They recognised that the only way to ensure peace and friendly co-operation between European nations was to base their growth on the above-mentioned Christian values. Thus they thought it was Christians who because of their evangelical commandment to make the world better had the duty to enter political, social and economic life. They have the duty to enter the media, culture and science of their nations. Those four Catholic statesmen were aware of the great significance - for peace, friendly collaboration and full development of Europe - of effective, social market economy and international economic co-operation, and that's why they created an economic basis of the first European community - the Community of Coal and Steel. However, in their intentions economy was to be a means, and not its main aim, to build a new, solidary, wonderful Europe.
In 1959 Robert Schuman spoke to the members of the European Parliament: 'Full, true democracy owns its origin and growth to Christianity. It was already born when God called man to attribute respect in his ideas, words and deeds to every particular person, and to accept his/her inalienable right to life, freedom, peace, upbringing and respect due to every man on the basis of the commandment of love of neighbour. It was only Christianity that began teaching humankind about natural equality of all people in the world in spite of their race, social class, sex, age, profession, wealth and political or social position. In its teaching Christianity has always began with the revealed God's truth as its starting point, i.e. every man has been created on the image of God. And it was the Christian teaching that has become the foundation of the European civilisation throughout centuries, the foundation of international law and contemporary theory of human rights'.
It is worth quoting the words of Schuman, one of the founders of the European Community, when numerous Western leaders do everything to remove from the hearts and minds of the Europeans, from the European institutions, from public, scientific and social life of new Europe, the Christian roots and all references to personal God whose will, enclosed in the Decalogue, the Gospel and natural law, is the only guarantee of survival and development of the Euro-Atlantic civilisation. Tomasz Masaryk, known philosopher and outstanding pre-war Czech president, said important and wise words: 'Nation, state, institution and even civilisation die irretrievably if they depart from the foundations on which civilisation was built'. The European civilisation and European community have been built on the foundation of Christian principles. And only these principles can ensure their survival. Otherwise they will be consumed by constant and increasingly deep crises. Free market economy alone is not enough to be a bond in the face of evident national egoisms and external threats, terrorism and other dangers, including those which can cause irresponsible scientists who want to replace God in their genetic researches and other experiments. Furthermore, the European community, devoid of support of solidarity that flows from the evangelical commandment of love of neighbour, can easily become certain embers of new hatred, new slavery of the weaker by the stronger as well as new conflicts.
Fr Ignacy Skorupka and numerous Polish soldiers died for Christian Poland and Europe in 1920. May this monument help all Polish people remember their sacrifice and what they died for. Let it make each of us aware of our obligation to fight, although thanks to God in a different way than they did, for Christian soul of our Fatherland and after all our Europe, which we, Poles, have already been co-building for a thousand years.