The Spirit of Assisi in Krakow

Msgr Ireneusz Skubis talks to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow.

Fr Ireneusz Skubis: – Together with the Sant’Edigio Community in Rome you have launched the great initiative that began in Assisi in 1986, its co-organiser and participant being the Holy Father John Paul II. Then similar meetings took place in various places in the world. The last one was held in Cyprus in 2008. Now, on 6-8 September 2009, you invite all people to Krakow. The Krakow meeting will also remind people of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. The hugeness of the disaster caused by the Nazi Germany should be a warning to the whole mankind. War destroys and contradicts love. I would like you to present the idea that accompanied the Servant of God John Paul II during the first meeting of world religions in Assisi.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: – The Servant of God John Paul II was concerned about peace that is transcendental and universal. It means that it is the work of all people regardless of their confession, religion or culture. The idea of Assisi was to get to know one another, which led to a bigger collaboration for the cause of peace. Naturally, peace does not come from vacuum but it is built on the fundamental principles of social life. These include: truth, freedom, justice and love. When any of these principles is trampled peace is threatened and its quality is poor. Undoubtedly, at first peace must find home in our hearts so that it could be poured into other people’s hearts. However, as the Pope stressed, the starting point is getting to know one another and getting rid of prejudices.

– How did the Holy Father comment on that great meeting in Assisi?

– John Paul II was glad that the meeting in Assisi was so well received by various religious communities. He was convinced that the cause of peace was close to all people. Therefore, despite numerous critics he decided to initiate the congress in the city of St Francis.

– Have the meetings in Assisi and other places in the world, which were of ecumenical character, contributed to a deeper understanding between the representatives of particular world religions?

– These meetings were not only of ecumenical character but also assumed the form of inter-religious dialogue. Every meeting contributes to a better understanding and getting to know one another. People build bridges thanks to which the concept of peace does not seem to be some abstraction.

– What dimension will the meeting you organise have? What message are you going to give to the participants of the Krakow meeting?

– The Krakow meeting will not only have a religious dimension but also a universal dimension embracing the whole world and all people of good will. Therefore, my message will also have a universal dimension, directed to all people.

– And what does the present Pope Benedict XVI think about the meeting?

– He is in favour of the idea. He himself participated in the meeting that was held in Naples two years ago.

– It is known that the concept of ‘culture’ appears just after the word ‘religion.’ That’s why, it is right to say that Krakow will also be a place where various cultures will meet. What fruit do you expect in this respect? I also mean the reference of John Paul II to culture, both in the general dimension and also in particular one. We know how much the Holy Father valued the Polish and Christian culture.

– John Paul II, who was a host at the UNESCO headquarters, reminded people that culture was the right way of man’s existence and living. The latter embraced cognition, understanding, co-existence and co-operation. It means that the Polish culture is one of many cultures. Thus we are obliged to get to know other cultures to build peace in the world in a better and more appropriate way.

– We are living in the era of globalisation. In his encyclical ‘Caritas in veritate’ Benedict XVI mentions this problem and gives some guidelines that can be useful for the development of mankind. Will the Krakow meeting refer to the themes connected with globalisation?

– One of the numerous themes in panels will be globalisation and identity as the challenges of contemporary times. We are inhabitants of the global village in which distance between people becomes visibly shortened. It means that – also thanks to the media – the Krakow meeting can create a community on the model of community of people. Globalisation is also a challenge to get to know one’s faith in a better and deeper way. We are to justify our faith when someone asks us to do so. We should know the answer why I believe and what faith means to me. In other words, we should be aware of our Christian identity.

– In your pastoral letter you focused on the fact that the meeting in Krakow would take place on the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, then the Berlin wall fell and there was the unification of Europe. Please reflect on the role of John Paul II in the fall of the ideological wall, which communism created.

– In the European disputes people omit the real influence of John Paul II and ‘Solidarity’ on the breakdown of communism. They form an alleged opinion that the Berlin wall was the beginning of freedom. But actually the fall of the Berlin wall was the effect of the activities of the Pope and Solidarity. The ‘spring of peoples of the memorable year 1989’ happened later. It was the prayer-request to renew the face of the Polish land that became the real brand to evoke hope for better future and the fall of communism. We must constantly remind people of that because it seems that this fact is omitted on purpose.

– What interpretation of the world presence of the idea of God’s mercy, the sparkle from Lagiewniki, about which John Paul II spoke, would you give? This idea will be present at the Krakow meeting for the peace in the world.

– Only man who doubts in the grace of mercy can limit the Divine Mercy. This idea is close to everyone because nobody, I suppose, can say that he does not need mercy. Mercy aims at liberating people from their misery and show them better reality, such that has a human face. The Divine Mercy means that all things can be saved. Mercy also means the lifestyle that Sr. Faustina depicted, ‘God, give me merciful eyes, merciful ears, merciful hands and merciful heart.’

– The list of invited guests for the meeting in Krakow includes representatives of various religions and cultures, the world of politics. Your Eminence, I congratulate you on undertaking this initiative. The motive to show our country on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II can also be an occasion to present some problems related to this anniversary, especially when there are attempts to obscure the historic picture. This congress will also be an occasion for Poles to participate in a world meeting and at the same time to mark our religiousness and culture as well as our national identity. We thank you for launching this important initiative.

International Meeting for Peace ‘People and Religions’

‘The Spirit of Assisi in Krakow’
6-8 September 2009

6 September – Sunday
10.00 – Divine Mercy Sanctuary
Solemn Eucharist with the presence of representatives of various Christian Churches
17.00 – Auditorium Maximum – Opening Assembly

7 September – Monday
9.30 – Halls in the city centre – Panel discussions
16.30 – Halls in the city centre – Panel discussions

8 September – Tuesday
11.00 – Celebrations in Auschwitz-Birkenau – March and Remembrance Ceremony
17.30 – Krakow, Main Market Square – Prayer for peace and Final Ceremony

"Niedziela" 36/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: