Confirmation in Europe
Bishop Ryszard Karpinski, delegate of the Polish Bishops Conference for Polonia (Catholics of Polish descent who live outside Poland), reports on his pastoral journey about Europe.
'Niedziela': - Your Excellency, after having visited America your next pastoral visit was about Europe. Would you like to tell us some details of your journey?
Bishop Ryszard Karpinski: - Actually, there were two trips. One to Paris where I administered the Sacrament of Confirmation in two Polonia communities: in the oldest parish - Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and in one of the younger parish communities in the city - St Gertrude's Church. For years Polish priests in Paris administer this sacrament on the Feast of Lord's Ascension, which is celebrated in France on Thursday, a national holiday in this country. The candidates to receive the sacrament are mainly young - secondary school pupils, who were born in Poland or who come from Polish families. Their representative who greeted me in one of these communities stressed that it was hard to be a practicing believer in the city on the River Seine, in the society, which is deeply secularized, and at the same time multicultural and multi-religious. Replying to her I focused on the help of the Holy Spirit for us so that we can witness in such an environment. I gave examples of young people who could follow Christ and his Church in even more difficult conditions.
- Was your second trip to Germany also connected with confirmation?
- In fact, it was, but its main aim was to lead the pilgrimage of Poles living in the northwest part of Germany to the Marian shrine in Kevelaer, near the border with Holland, on 7 May 2005. There were about 700 Catholics from Germany and Holland and 12 religious from the Society of Christ Fathers, headed by their Provincial Stefan Ochalski. In my homily I focused on our gratitude to God for the great gift of the pontificate of the Servant of God John Paul II, the gift that especially obliges us, his fellow countrymen, to give a concrete answer - to put papal teaching into practice. John Paul II was in Kevelaer during his visit to Germany in 1987. In the afternoon I participated in the ecumenical prayer in the British Military Cemetery, which was organized by the mayor of Kleve and representatives of other churches. I spoke in German and I encouraged people to pray for the victims of World War II, and for peace in the world. I also paid a visit to the Polish community in that town. They gathered for an evening Mass.
- And what about the sacrament of confirmation?
- I administered it the next day, on Sunday, 8 May, in the Polish Catholic Mission in Koblenz, where late Fr. Henryk Bielaszewski, priest from the Archdiocese of Lublin, worked for years (he died on 23 February 2005). After his death the pastoral ministry was taken over by the Society of Christ Fathers to Polish migrants. Rev. Jan Bielaszewski, brother of the dead priest, celebrated the Mass with me. So it was also an occasion to pray for the dead priest and to express our gratitude to God for his calling to work among Polish Catholics who live outside Poland. In my homily I spoke among other things about the task of every priest, which is to reveal God's name to people. And the laymen should also participate in this mission, these lay Catholics who have received the sacrament of confirmation.
- Thank you very much for the conversation.