70th ANNIVERSARY OF GENOCIDE OF POLES IN VOLYN
A SIGNED DECLARATION OF RECONCILIATION
The further towards East of Ukraine, the smaller consciousness among the Ukrainians there is, which was a crime of Volyn. We are also waiting for the opinion of the orthodox Church on this issue – says archbishop Światosław Szewczuk, a superior of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
‘The Christian evaluation of the crime in Volyn requires from us the explicit condemnation and apology for it’ – proclaims the text of the declaration of the Roman – and Greek-Catholic churches in Poland and Ukraine, signed in the Secretariat of the Episcopate in Warsaw on 28 June this year.
– The document is not a political attack – explains archbishop Józef Michalik – because it is not the policy which is a field for the pastoral ministry of the Church. – This is a continuation of the examination of conscience done 25 years ago by the late cardinal Józef Glemp and archbishop Myrosław Lubacziwski, and also still alive cardinal Lubomyr Huzar.
– We want to tell the truth about the past events and say ‘no’ once for ever to any ideologies, which teach hatred – notes archbishop Światosław Szewczuk.
– I hope that this declaration will bring not only the Polish and the Ukrainian nations closer to each other, but will also improve our relations with the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine – adds archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, the metropolitan of Latin rite in Lvov.
Condemnation of the extreme nationalism
In the declaration signed in Warsaw, the crime done on the Polish people in 1943 in Volyn, was subordinated to the explicit negative evaluation. ‘For we think that neither violence nor ethnical purges can ever be a method of solving conflicts between neighbouring peoples or nations, or justified with a political, economic or religious right’ – say bishops. They decided that the extreme nationalism deserved condemning because ‘beside atheistic and totalitarian communism and Nazism, it was an ideology which caused millions of victims during the XX century’.
Moreover, bishops made an appeal in the document to historians ‘for further investigations based on sources and cooperation in explaining circumstances of these terrifying crimes, as well as making a list of names of everybody who had been oppressed’. They also referred to the mutual cooperation: ‘We also think that the cooperation of independent Poland with independent Ukraine is essential so that peace would exist in this part of Europe, and people would enjoy religious freedom and human rights would not be endangered’.
A day earlier archbishop Świętosław Szewczuk and the representatives of the Polish and Ukrainian Episcopates and the Polish and Ukrainian authorities participated in the memorial service, that is, a divine service for the deceased, in the Warsaw Greek-Catholic Orthodox Church under the vocation of Assumption of the Mary the Virgin. He addressed his request to Poles for forgiveness there, who lost their relatives in Volyn in 1943. – In the eyes of Lord, nothing justifies even one destroyed life and at least the smallest harm – he said.
The superior of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church also referred to the pronouncement of John Paul II in Lvov in 2001, who was appealing: ‘It is time to depart from the painful past! Let forgiveness – given and received - spread like a generous balsam in every heart’.
Whereas archbishop Józef Michalik noted that both this meeting and the signed declaration are something much more than only reminiscence of the victims of the crime in Volyn. – It is a desire of distancing oneself from bad experiences, it is an evidence of humble faith trying to maintain obedience to the Gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation, but it is also a sign of healthy and brave patriotism – distancing itself from nationalistic or insular school of thinking.
Cleansing of the historical memory was to be made also by the session ‘Crime in Volyn. History – memory – education’, organised in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. As the secretary of the Council of Protection of Fights and Martyrdom Memory Andrzej Kunert said, probably other generations of Poles and Ukrainians will be able to speak about real forgiveness in the truth towards this crime. – And there is one truth. It would be wonderful if everybody agreed to it, and – as Christianity says – the truth must be accompanied by love but it seems that it is still a long way.
Let’s remind that the massacre in Volyn, that is mass crime of genocide done by the Ukrainian nationalists towards Poles of the former province of Volyn, took place during the Nazis occupation of these areas by the Third Reich, from February 1943 to February 1944.