THE CHURCH READY FOR EURO
Katarzyna Dobrowolska talks about the Euro 2012 with the auxiliary bishop of Kielce diocese and the delegate of the Polish Episcopal Conference for pastoral ministry among sportsmen, Marian Florczyk
KATARZYNA DOBROWOLSKA: – From the beginning the Church has been joining the pastoral ministry in the preparation for the Euro 2012. How does Bishop evaluate these preparations?
BISHOP MARIAN FLORCZYK: – Just after the announcement by UEFA that Poland and Ukraine will be the hosts of the championships, we began the preparations. In the first place the cooperation with the company PL 2012 was undertaken by priests of sportsmen from cities where matches will take place. Using the experience and good practices of championships in Austria and Switzerland, a plan of preparations was outlined. The first and most important task was to organize pastoral care about fans and sportsmen – those from home and abroad – organize chapels at stadiums, prepare churches in the cities of sport events, and also in places where there is a sphere for fans. Suitable information centres have been created where there are addresses of churches, chapels, prayer places, hours of divine services and hours of service of priests. The second aspect of the preparations concerned the educational activity addressed to young sport fans. Its purpose is to promote the value of sport among children and youth and being a sport fan in the spirit of a fair play. In this plan we included not only pastoral ministry but also our culture. I am sure that during the championships we can show our culture characterised by Christian principles and which is favourable to inter-human relationships in mutual respect. This is the way we are going to realize the old-Polish saying: ‘Guest at home, God at home’. In my opinion this plan in which the main role was played by priests of sportsmen from the cities of sport events: Gdansk, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan, was done well and I am grateful them for that. The Church is ready for the Euro 2012.
– What can sport fans count for from the pastoral party in the sport cities during the Euro?
– We are prepared to provide pastoral care to fans, guests from abroad and sportsmen. In the assigned churches, in the cities of sport events there will be Holy Masses celebrated in native languages of sportsmen playing their matches on particular days. There will be a possibility of a confession and priests will serve with information. We have also considered cities where there is going to be a sphere for fans – for example those where teams from particular countries are going to stay. We will try our best to satisfy their spiritual needs. We know that some sport fans and sportsmen will arrive with their chaplains – our churches and our hearts are open to them. They will also be able to fulfil pastoral ministry without any difficulty.
– It is known that pastoral ministry and particular communities have prepared many evangelizing initiatives in the cities of sport events for the Euro. What is the sense of these actions?
– Evangelization during the championships or Olympic Games is not a new matter. Recently I have received myself an invitation from the Catholic Church in England with a request for sending Polish volunteers to the Olympic Games to London, so that they would lead evangelisation among sport fans. It is going to be sharing God’s word and experience of God in their life by volunteers with sport fans, there will also be concerts of Christian music, different various on squares and streets. There are occasional editions for example the Edition of St. Paul worked out four Gospels with the testimonies of sportsmen, a prayer book for sportsmen and sport fans. Thanks to it, every sport fan will be able to get rich with God’s word and pray for sportsmen. It is a beautiful gesture.
We want to experience the championships with God. We start them on 7 June in Warsaw – during an ecumenical Divine service in the cathedral in Prague. Here we are going to pray for a successful process of championship and blessing for Poles and all arriving guests.
– Euro is a good occasion to promote sport at all and in this sphere the Church undertook important sport and educational initiatives addressed to the young generation. What was the purpose of their actions?
– We want to use the Euro for formation of all those who deal with sport, and especially formation of children and youth. In many schools in all levels of teaching we suggested to catechists special lesson scenarios about sport values, noble ideas and good manners of being a sportsman and a sport fan. This all is connected with ethics characterised by values and, first of all, the respect to another man from another country, different culture and an opposite team. Moreover, the pastoral ministry of sport was popularizing ideas of sport values through competitions. In particular dioceses sport events for children and youth were organised. I still emphasize a strong relationship of sport and sacrum, religion – from the ancient times when during Olympic Games a fire was burning in front of Zeus. The holy fire for a Christian is the Light which is Christ enlightening all spheres of life, including sport. In sport – both the extreme and amateur sport – it is all about noble ideas, forming the personality and struggling with weaknesses. A sportsman, who wants to achieve a master’s class, must work on himself in order to implement noble ideas and must devote himself and here sport meets with religion.
– What championships does Bishop want to see in Poland? What should sport fans remember about on order to speak about a success after the Euro?
– We all, Poles and guests, are responsible for the atmosphere of championships, the atmosphere of a community and brotherhood which should accompany the Euro. We want to open our hearts, show culture built on Gospel and Christian values. They have been building our country since the beginning of the Polish country since the baptism of Poland. This culture is close to Europe and grows from it. in Europe the Polish nation is perceived through a prism of ideas of Solidarity – in this sense Poland reveals itself as a nation of one spirit, aiming at good but not destruction, at mutual respect but not hostility. We would like foreign guests to treat our material deficiencies with understanding, caused also by certain backwardness connected with painful history of the war period and after the war, and, first of all, to notice this good which is in people. We also expect this good and respect from the guests. I deeply hope that the championships will be a great experience of inter-human solidarity, friendship, peace but not humiliation or destruction! These values were brought to the world by Blessed John Paul II. Sport fans know that he was from Poland.
– What value can the championships have in the social dimension?
– Sport takes place in a community and is for community and it absorbs the community. This event has significance for Poland and Europe. Eyes of Europe, lens of cameras will be turned towards our country. On these days foreign media will be writing about Poland and Poles. These sport events, like championships will also bring a measurable material value. Stadiums appeared and infrastructure changed. Arriving sport fans are using the tourist offer, will see the beauty of our country. However, the aspect of culture exchange is the most important. Championships give us a possibility of culture exchange, getting rich with another culture and getting to know it. Sport experiences, the common culture cheering on stadiums, experienced in the sense of mutual respect, allow for breaking the prejudice and build brotherhood among sport fans and sport teams – because sport is a noble competition, but not a fight at any cost. So – this sport event should bring in what is noble and what we call a fair play. Sport should build, not separate. It should bring to admiration of the spirit, body fitness but not disrespect.
– Will Bishop participate in opening of the Euro 2012?
– I do not know yet, whether directly on a stadium. Probably yes, but if not, then in front of TV but not alone but with a group of careful and calm sport fans. I will surely watch the process of the whole championships. I will enjoy beautiful victories and be sad about losses. Let there be as few losses as possible of our representation.
– Does Bishop have his own favourite?
– A few. My favourites are Spain, Germany and Italy, but I would like to be wrong and experience, for more emotions and surprise, joy after the championships. Therefore I wish us the best Polish team, I am with it and I support it with kindness and prayer. I hope that we will have reasons for a great joy. This is the expected surprise.