Polish bishops defend the cross
Fr Mariusz Frukacz
The stand of the Church in Poland concerning the verdict of the European Court in Strasburg on the removal of crucifixes, the issue of propedeutic period in Polish major seminaries, pastoral work among Polish migrants and the programme of pastoral ministry of the Church in Poland were discussed during the press conference held in the conference hall of the Pilgrims’ House at Jasna Gora on 26 November 2009 after the 350th Plenary Meeting of the Polish Bishops’ Conference had been finished. The conference participants were Archbishop Jozef Michalik, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the Deputy, Bishop Wojciech Polak, the new delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for Polish migrants abroad and the President of the Commission for the Polish Community and Poles Abroad, Rev. Dr. Jozef Kloch, the press spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, and the Pauline Fathers Stanislaw Tomon, the Director of the Press Office of Jasna Gora, and Robert Jasiulewicz, the editor-in-chief of the monthly ‘Jasna Gora.’ Archbishop Jozef Michalik presented the stand of the Polish Bishops’ Conference concerning the sentence of the European Court in Strasburg on the removal of crucifixes from schools. Archbishop Michalik said, ‘The verdict of the European Court in Strasburg concerning crucifixes is very important to all people and a priority for the Catholic Church and all believers. We are witnesses of the fact that recently we have received the answer to the question what Europe is to be built. Is it Europe respecting religious convictions of others or Europe of universal minimalism or Europe of aggressive laicism?, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference continued. Archbishop Michalik also stressed that ‘the Cross is a symbol of the highest sanctity for us. A crucifix is not only an ornament or a cultural thing around which civilisation was built. Christ’s cross is the most important sign in the history of the world and mankind when God replied to human misery and died for us on the Cross.’ ‘One needs a testimony of demanding the presence of the cross in public life. The cross is a sign of love, forgiveness. Are we to reject Christ’s prayer Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing? Are we to leave the way the Gospel teaches us”, the hierarch asked. ‘The cross is a teacher for each of us. The Church and honest people cannot be silent. This is some hour of trial for our faith, for our courage. Is faith to be limited to the ends of conscience?’, he added. The President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference criticised the present European ideology of liberalism. ‘Modern liberals have false concepts of faith. In fact, they are not modern at all since they repeat the old patterns of persecutions and not of tolerance, openness, the culture of the spirit towards other people’, Archbishop Michalik emphasised. The bishops also presented the journalists the programme of pastoral work of the Church in Poland, which was discussed by Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, and the issue of introducing a propedeutic period in the Polish major seminaries and the issue of pastoral work among Polish migrants. ‘The problem of pastoral ministry among migrants is very complicated. Pastoral care for migrants is needed. Contacts with the rectors of Catholic missions and local bishops are needed. Another important issue is the presence of priests among Polish migrants’, Bishop Wojciech Polak, the new delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for Polish Community, said. He replaced Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who had fulfilled that function for the last 20 months, and since April has been the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. Earlier it was Bishop Ryszard Karpinski, an auxiliary in the Diocese of Lublin, who was responsible for the pastoral work among Polish migrants. The Primate of Poland Cardinal August Hlond started the Bishops’ Commission for the Polish Community and Poles Abroad in 1928. He himself presided over the Bishops’ Commission that dealt with the Polish Catholic Missions.