Let's not constrain the Gospel

Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference and the Archbishop of Przemysl - Józef Michalik about the role of mass media in ministry, their 'today and 'tomorrow' and hope they give to the future Church.

REV. MSGR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - It was 85 years ago, in 1926, when the first edition of 'Niedziela' appeared, and which was founded by the bishop of Czestochowa Theodor Kubina. In his first speech he named the new Catholic weekly an additional vicar for a parish priest and a suffragan for the diocese bishop. You, Reverend Archbishop, have a Przemyśl edition of 'Niedziela' in your area and are often a guest on the pages of the nationwide weekly. How much could you confirm the relevancy of bishop Kubina's words?

ARCHBISHOP JÓZEF MICHALIK: - The priestly genius of the bishop Kubina's is seen in his concept of human formation, transmission of faith through the spoken word and also a contemplated and mature word. The man's contact with God can have different dimensions. The man must be informed and formed. His intellectual formation is the best basis to grow in faith. Bishop Theodor Kubina' s intuition is very close to Maksymilian Kolbe here. These are times when organized anti-clerical environments wake up, when Poland wakes up to new reality after regaining its independence and needs the man with the capital 'M', fully and integrally formed. The man of faith must be a man in the integral formation. Therefore, it is very important to show a shepherd so that people in a family would reach for intellectual pabulum, information. Reading the Catholic newspaper is somehow a participation in this intellectual breath of the whole motherland.
A Catholic is a man who lives general issues, not only issues of his area, or parish. His parish becomes more Catholic if it breathes together with the problems of a diocese, and the whole Catholic Church. What would a Catholic be if he did not worry about missions, did not suffer in the intention of the persecuted for their faith? A Catholic paper is just a way to learn these facts, the Pope's teaching etc.

- I will mention sad events which took place in Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw suburb where the Cross was profaned - there were young people there who were shouting against the Cross, against praying people. If those people read Catholic press, they would surely know what the Cross to a Catholic means. However, this youth probably remains out of Catholic mass media.

- It was beyond the ordinary rules of good manners. If that youth were fed with healthy, beautiful Polish culture they would not have used this kind of words or gestures. But these are very often groups of people specially constructed to fight Christianity. They open our eyes that faith formation and also creating the atmosphere of intolerance towards evil are needed. For today the atmosphere of tolerance towards everything spreads. We do not mean to use force in rejecting the right to express one's opinion but we mean not to tolerate any insults of another person by searching for popularity or applause among certain environments interested in rejecting values which we have been living for a long time and which a man of the XXI century and a man of culture cherish. It is worth referring to the history of a fight against the Church here. There is a well-known example and journalism by Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist philosopher who came back to Italy after his visit to the Soviet Union and stated that the Western culture cannot easily be rejected by a confrontation which took place in totalitarian Russia but the family must be divided, institutions and education must be captured and Christian customs, traditions of the Western culture must be softened and weakened. Then atheism will be easy to implement. The fight and confrontation on the ideological basis is still going on. The confrontation of the two civilizations is continued: between Christian and antichristian civilizations, between the man's integral culture including his material, spiritual and supernatural vocation and hedonistic culture which reduces the man only to a religious dimension.

- The values you are talking about may and should get mature in different environments; but perhaps it mostly happens in a Catholic family which has additionally got a contact with the Church. How does Your Excellency see the presence of the Catholic press in this context, for example 'Niedziela' which somehow helps the man root in a real Old Polish culture? How much can the catholic newspaper help a family in recognizing signs of the time in their life and does it equip a family with tools to fight for faith, especially with reference to the young generation?

- Undoubtedly, the inspiration of each newspaper is a co-operation with its readers, that is, a dialogue. For everybody, reaching for a text expects something. If a newspaper presents current issues, is not afraid of difficult questions and is trying to answer them or presents ways to find answers to them - then it fulfils its role. We are witnesses of the fact that 'Niedziela', 'Gość Niedzielny' and the whole group of Catholic newspapers have undertaken a fight for defence of life, bioethics, in vitro fertilization - completely new issues for us, as being still clerics in a seminary we did not have any idea about it; it was born before our eyes and requires our answer. And this is a life problem for young people as well, so that they could find themselves according to our faith, the Evangelizing concept of the Church. We do not have to be afraid of putting high requirements to the man as it will develop him. However, these ideals must be set in a proper manner, which means that answers to difficult problems must be given with humility and competently without being afraid of sometimes admitting that not everything has been thoroughly examined nor not everything is clear and we do not have ready prescriptions to all diseases.

- It seems to me that in our ministry there is a problem of not enough preparation of priests for consideration of Catholic media. Priests in seminars are not prepared mainly to work in parishes. Editors of Catholic newspapers feel somehow on the sidelines of ministry, whereas it should be integral and considering all forms of transmission. The man comes to church, attends the Holy Mass, then he goes back home, goes to work and bears many problems which secular media are trying to solve through different kinds of message. Don't you notice any shortcomings?

- Your aspiration, as the chief editor, to make the media issue a priority in seminars and in each Christian's life is a beautiful testimony of your fervour. It similarly concerns professor priests - each of them would like to have more hours as they think that it determines a cleric's or a future priest's good preparation for the future pastoral work. We cannot omit it but we must absolutely open to media today. It is a means of communication that is, a contact with another man. However, a spoken word plays the most important role. 'Christianity is the religion of God's 'word', 'not a written word' or a silent word but a word made incarnate and alive' (KKK 108). We take it from Christ and our contact with Him is an ideal of a deeper contact through grace with another person. He is in the middle.

- Of course, we cannot omit the modern means of communication which must be used and priests must be prepared to use them, taught to speak. However, I do not think that the solution to this problem would be introducing more hours or forcing everybody to read. It can not be introduced today. For example, introducing 2-3 TV stations of a 24 hour catholic program would not be a pastoral solution. Those stations are needed, but, in my opinion, the ideal would be if editors in all stations deepened their vision of Christian culture, the hierarchy of Gospel values saying about justice as a base and also love towards enemies not only one's neighbour, that is, forgiving injuries and sins.

- It is a great task so that the language of the Gospel would spread among creators of secular mass media. If journalists and producers of secular and catholic programs are not complementary to one another, we will be working at two different levels and we will easily make accusations. We must try to speak one common and clear language.

- It would be definitely better if the Catholic society was reflected in all editorial offices. But I mean pastoral work to include the presence of mass media, for example, when mentioning an issue in a particular edition of the weekly in the parish announcements...

- Generally, there is a problem connected with new media areas here, for example internet. It is also a challenge for the Catholic editorial offices - their presence on Internet. It is also a challenge for the Church. It is impossible to fulfil it by appointing another team. We must make everybody sensitive so that we could talk with each other with love and patience. A beautiful traditional Jewish method is a dialogue. The history of this nation's culture is included also in jokes or warm irony which was broken with much argumentation. An inoffensive witty approach to certain paradoxical claims often solves many situations. These are certain areas and methods which can be used for filling the space of media emptiness which is near Christian values.

- 'Niedziela' has been present on Internet for a long time as a special editorial team take care of it. It sometimes happens that there is no space for an article in the newspaper, so in this case a reader is referred to our web sites. Internet creates a new kind of digital culture today, which creates a world of information. However, internet is also conducive to some distraction of the man, whereas the Church is a community and people should feel as the Church. Hence, there is a variety of attempts to make a contact with a faithful man through this medium...

- It is good it happens so, as it is the first information for people using internet. I mean discussions or blogs here. We may have to prepare mini-editorial offices which will take modest action but with great intellectual, methodical potential and will be able to include the essence of a problem in short condensed utterances.

- You, Archbishop, as a chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference give an example of a hearty supporting and encouraging Catholic mass media. On the occasion of 85th existence and 30th resumption of 'Niedziela' we thank Your Excellency for your kindness to our weekly, which is seen especially in parishes of the Przemyśl diocese. What else would Your Excellency as a shepherd expect from the Catholic mass media?

- We - as priests continually use Catholic mass media. It is a very important source of information and a continuous lesson to us. In this way we learn the language of time, we recognize issues which should be discussed. In this area there are traditional environments well-deserved like <> and others still being created; their variety in their essence and form is big and meets a great popularity. If new periodicals come out which discuss issues of spiritual life and if there still exist, for example, weeklies already sanctified by long tradition, it proves that somehow work in this area bears fruits. However, it still must be supplemented with learning to edit a text at the parish level with using reference letters. We must warn others against the so-called journalist emptiness appearing very often in glossy magazines which are commercially-oriented. We must not underestimate some efforts of secular environments which are trying to act against it. There are often intellectual potentates there. And we also have to make an effort of a dialogue among people - creators of the so-called independent culture. These are often people of good will and noble but not enriched with the dimension of faith. In my opinion, a classical example is prof. Leszek Kołakowski, known as a Marxist and anticlerical, whose maturity in searching for faith and correcting his opinions really expresses an intellectual effort of that famous man who, in the end of his life, was courageous enough to admit in one of his interviews that he had happened to write about unwise things; he mostly grieves over the fact that these were things often unfair. In a conclusion, if he could turn back from that road, he would willingly do it. He said clearly that he spiritually feels a Catholic and a Christian. He had not had such a grace of faith yet which would let him attend a confession and Holy Communion, but he missed it. It means that the contact with people at the level of kindness, openness and humility is really needed. We must not lose our hope that every article and every edition of a Catholic magazine will be followed by the God's grace and that they will be a grain which will fall onto the soil of our hearts and will bear a fruit. Let's not constrain the Gospel.

- Poland's Episcopate have planned another plenary meeting in Przemyśl on 14-16 October 2011; it is connected with thanksgiving for the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II on the 33rd anniversary of the Polish Pope's election. This event will coincide with the jubilee of the 25- year bishop sacra of Your Excellency, Archbishop, which was given by the Holy Father John Paul II on 16 October in 1986. We already congratulate you on this anniversary today, and we will also be grateful for your words reflecting on the role of John Paul II in Your, Archbishop, life.

- Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was a great gift for me. I met him as a defender of life and the author of a book about responsible love ('Love and responsibility' - note. I. S.), and, as a cleric, I was struggling to read it but it was my inspiration to have a new look at the human riches, material and spiritual existence and the fact that one does not contradict another and the harmony between the body and the spirit is very important and can be beautiful. Later, as a student, I used to meet Cardinal Wojtyła in Rome where he stayed in the Pope's Polish College and from where he went to the conclave. He did not change after being elected a Pope - he was a man from the capital 'M' and was always very close to all people and very open to everybody. He granted me an undeserved favour - he wanted to ordain me in the Saint Peter's basilica. It was beyond my bravest expectations but I was grateful to him for providing me with words of his sermon through my ministry; and it became my life program. I have never doubted that through meeting the Holy Father on different occasions and through His hospitality, kindness, I went to him to receive a lesson, to learn something, obtain something important. He used to say very often: 'ask a question' or he shared his thoughts that allowed me to draw conclusions. It was a great school which we had an opportunity to use. And we used it, some of us - more, the others - less. The beatification showed the Holy Father, John Paul II to the Church, Poland and the whole world in a new way. It is also for me a new Pope of a constant and permanent mediation with God, an additional bridge leading to God; John Paul II could be a companion, a leader some time ago and now he became a reference point. Therefore the Church in Poland thanks God for him and we would like also Przemyśl to have a chance to thank, together with all bishops, priests, believers. It will be the last celebration in the whole Church with the whole Episcopate; it will also be my thanksgiving for the grace of the priesthood, for support of my ministry in our Church and nation and for faithful patrons who John Paul II has belonged to since this May.


"Niedziela" 38/2011

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