Nation should not be disregarded

Archbishop Jozef Michalik

Let us begin our reflection with the question, ‘Will Poland’s history include another date and painful remembrance from today (Tuesday 3 August): the next month of the conflict concerning the cross outside the Presidential Palace?

This cross is the Nation’s voice

It should be always remembered that the cross, especially the one at which people said many prayers, is a sacred sign, filled with the content of faith, which is most important to us, and one cannot manipulate with the cross; one can neither disregard nor maltreat it. There is also a concealed question, ‘What is the difference between the cross outside the Presidential Palace and the crosses in Mietne and Wloszczowa, which Bishop Mieczyslaw Jaworski defended?
The above-mentioned crosses were signs of faith for the young people and their parents. Their removal did not mean a change of their location but it meant some evil will and decision to exclude this sign from public life. The Church cannot be silent in such a situation. The cross, let us call it ‘Smolensk cross’, has also become such a sacred sign, towards which our prayers were directed during the days of mourning. It showed a deeper sense of the tragedy, was an expression of faith in the resurrection of those who lost their lives as well as the testimony of generosity and faith of the scouts who had brought the cross there. Nobody thought that the cross would remain there in such a form but the subsequent events slowly brought another dimension. The Nation began speaking in the square in front of the Presidential Palace. But nobody wanted to listen to the voice of this Nation, which was clearly seen during the funeral celebrations. Then the attack against human emotions was continued, which evoked silent disapproval and disgust all over Poland. And then there happened several serious thoughtless events or careless decisions, which began politicising the cross from Krakowskie Przedmiescie.

Careless decisions

The unwise steps included the decision of President-elect Bronislaw Komorowski to move this sign – which became a symbol – to some undefined place. It was an absolute tactless action and as it occurred – a political mistake unless it was a realisation of someone’s pressure. Some form of imprudence was the fact that the leader of the opposition put flowers at the cross. In the tense situation the scouts and the Warsaw Curia were asked for help, which was an attempt to avoid the issue of erecting a worthy monument or at least a commemorative tablet honouring the new symbol of the emotions and experiences of the citizens of Warsaw and Poland, and which deepened people’s mistrust in the whole matter. Every action concealing the true intentions must evoke suspicion in this country because it is our heritage and our inner strength, because we have been deceived for ages. And the ruling party must remember about it.

This cross is our memory

The ‘Smolensk’ cross – its meaning can be understood on the simple example of the funeral cross on which there is the name and date of death of the person we bid farewell. All people know it is only a symbol, a sign of the event or place of internal rest. With time the relatives build a monument or tomb and the cross is moved to another place or is destroyed in a worthy way. In this case the cross should be honoured and replaced in such a way that there will be no void left. However, earlier the society must be let understand that those whose memory the cross reminds us of are respected and dear to us all. Since it was the elite of the Nation who was not going anywhere and without any purpose but they were on their way to Katyn to honour the trampled memory of those who had been innocently murdered, with whom the whole Nation has identified for decades. Can one disregard and ridicule the expressed emotions? One must not do it before one discovers their deep meanings. The negligence of these principles led to the return of the unnecessary habits of the private TV station that was showing the defenders of the cross as old people, sometimes worn out by years of work or addictions, which is not the only and full truth. I am not surprised by certain aggressiveness of ordinary people when the ‘elite’, protected by powerful financial means, is ridiculing the new symbol, and on this occasion faith and the Church. In one of the weeklies, dated on 1 August 2010, the editor-in-chief entitled his editorial, ‘To remove the cross’, which irresistibly evokes the reference to the last session of the Polish communist party. He concludes with a strongly mocking metaphor, ‘Of course, there will be defenders of the tradition stating that the Church is like rock. It has lasted unchangeably for two millenniums and need not fear anything. Polar bears do not care for global warming. They are convinced that since the Arctic has always existed it will exist for good.’ No comments.

Following the cross of the Holy Year

In 1983 the Church celebrated the Holy Year on the occasion of 1950th anniversary of Jesus Christ’s death, i.e. our Redemption. On this occasion there was a simple wooden cross in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. After the Holy Year had finished it was decided to return to the previous situation but what to do with the cross? Thousands of pilgrims prayed at the cross for one year. A group of youth from Centro s. Lorenzo approached the Pontifical Council for the Laity with the idea to take the cross of the Holy Year if the Pope would give it to them and take it to young people in various countries within the framework of preparations for the World Youth Days. This cross has been travelling all over the world, gathering young people for prayers. It is a symbol of John Paul II’s confidence in young people. It was him that entrusted the cross to them.
Perhaps the cross from Krakowskie Przedmiescie in Warsaw could become a vivid symbol of respect for the victims of Katyn: those killed in 1940 and those killed in 2010, who did not manage to pay tribute on the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. A chapel-sanctuary commemorating the victims is to be erected in Katyn. But such a decision – every decision concerning important matters – can be taken after prudent consultations, reflections in the spirit of sincerity and truth.
‘There’s no discussing with crowds’, a wise man says. Yes, but one does not disregard the Nation. One should listen more humbly to the rhythm of the life and the heart of the Nation.

"Niedziela" 33/2010

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