Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with archbishop Wacław Depo, the metropolitan of Częstochowa about the most important issues, which were discussed by bishops during the 362nd plenary meeting of the Polish Episcopal Conference on 21 – 22 June 2013 in Wieliczka

FR. INF. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - In a symbolic place the last plenary meeting of the polish Episcopal conference was held – in Wieliczka, on the area of archdiocese of Cracow, in the town of St. Kinga. The salt of the earth – can be said….It concerned many important issues, important decisions were made during it, among the others, the fourth ecclesiastical commandment was amended.

ARCHBISHOP WACŁAW DEPO: - I would like to refer first to the media message which had appeared before the Episcopate was gathered. It concerns the issue of the novelization or interpretation of the fourth ecclesiastical commandment. In media it was said in a perverse way that bishops allow for dancing on Fridays, but while having a lent, that is, dancing is allowed but meals of meat must not be eaten. Certainly, I protest against this kind of media interpretation of the decision of the Episcopate. I understand that it causes a much more serious dispute, which we have witnessed in the recent weeks during the statement of cardinal Dziwisz that the constituted law should not be above God’s law. And nothing is changing here. Bishops are reminding God’s commandments all the time. But ecclesiastical commandments can undergo slight changes. Certainly, it does not happen without justification. Let’s notice that any events or school or public celebrations have been organized on Fridays for many years. It is so with school proms, fun parties, etc. – regardless of the fact that in the tradition of the Church Friday has a penitential character, because it is the day of Lord Jesus’ death on the cross. However, if somebody must derogate from the provisions for some important reasons – that is, from the penitential character of this day or the period, which is the Lent, should be specially open to other forms of the Lent or penitence, which he can accept but not of the order.
Catholic religion is not religion of orders or prohibitions, but is development in freedom, as well as responsibility for oneself and for another man. It is a meeting with alive God. So, in the fourth ecclesiastical commandment it is all about Christ’s love than fulfilling legal provisions, which regulate us in such and such way. The spirit is more important than a legal letter. It was similar when a possibility of departing from traditional Lent character of the Christmas Eve was introduced. At that time, it was also clearly emphasized that on that day, it is permitted to eat meat meals, but in the tradition of the Polish Church, on the Christmas Eve the Lent is complied with. So, I want to emphasize clearly that in this commandment, life conditions were included as well as today’s challenges, which come from the world, but nothing exempt us from expressing love to Christ and to the Church. It is more important than legal deviations from the carefulness of the provision.

– It is only sad that a voice against bishops was expressed by journalists of the rightist option. Whereas the whole theology of St. Paul says about the spirit of law and a commandment as such. St. Paul responds to the accusations perfectly, which had already appeared in a synagogue in the beginnings of the original Church. Bishops know well what they are doing. The spirit of law and the letter of law – are two things.

– Journalists are right, that it is a kind of adjustment of the Church to the world. But the reform of the world is not based on doing something perversely but on the return to sources. St. Paul shows us that the spirit of faith is over law, that it is not law which redeems us, only Christ who brings a new law- law of love. Therefore, let’s ask about a real love to Christ, expressed also in the character of every Friday or the period of the Lent.

– At Jasna Góra there has recently been the Nationwide Congress of Catholics ‘Stop atheisation’. Also at that time, journalists were trying to define what is catholic and what is not. Instead of perceiving the essence of the matter – atheisation of the society, they defined it as promoting one party. We are glad that Archbishop emphasized during the Congress, with his acceptance and presence, that we should look further.

– First of all, assigning the Catholic attitude only to one party is a lie. And the protest of Catholics against other acts of atheisation which are done openly, not only in a concealed way, is something normal and obligatory.

– Another very important issue which was discussed by the Polish Episcopal Conference, was the issue of the crime in Volyn. It is not an easy issue, which we all are afraid of…

– Here the tradition of the Catholic Church will surely refer to the spirit of beautiful, but difficult letter of the Polish Episcopate to German bishops, which resulted from the millennium of baptism. This is return to the role of brotherhood built on forgiveness. It is difficult and painful, because for tens of years it has not been said anything about crimes in Volyn, or on our so-called south-eastern wall at all. Now, when the reality made us open up to this truth, we cannot conceal it again with the purpose for a dialogue and fraternization. Because it is possible to build forgiveness, agreement and cooperation only on the truth. This crime which had place on that area 70 years ago, was – we are not afraid of saying it directly – denationalization and genocide of our Catholic and Greek-Catholic society, Polish and Ukrainian society, because, after all, the Ukrainians were killed in the fight only because they were in solidarity with Poles and they helped them survive in various ways.
When today we speak about it, we cannot interpret everything in the scheme: violence for violence, because it is the way of bringing both sides onto the same level. I remember a village Sahyń on the area of the diocese of Zamojść where a Bandera group was liquidated with people of that area, who had invaded nearby villages from there and committed acts of genocide on Poles, burnt and destroyed everything which was Polish. This action of the National Army and Peasant’s Battalions was later defined as compensation of losses by Poles. Poles were considered as criminals. It seems that it is necessary to distinguish the truth from what is only an unlucky episode of the liberation fight.
Also the very fact of a fight on that area of the nation which was the Ukrainians, was surely connected with their dream about free Ukraine. Therefore, the emphasis only of the fact that these were fratricidal crimes, is not a complete telling the truth. The whole matter is also connected with the Germans who were causing divisions among us, so that their interests would win. We should refer to it.

– It was an ethnical expurgation….

– Yes. The extreme nationalism leads into it, resulting from hatred, not only from military widening life space for its nation.

– The Episcopal Conference also undertook an issue of religion at schools and a Religion examination in the secondary school leaving exam. It is an important issue for religion freedom in Poland.

– I will repeat what I often say, that here we speak the same language, but we speak about completely different meanings. Both Episcopate and Catholics ask why there is no religion in the secondary school leaving examination. And there is an answer: because it is not in the educational curriculum. But who moved this religion from the curriculum if not the same ministerial team – Krystyna Szumilas and Katarzyna Hall? Therefore, referring to this kind of provision is shortly speaking, a lie, not saying about a perversity or hypocrisy.
As for the issue of the so-called novelization of the core curriculum of religion education – in fact nothing is changing, and what will be interpreted in a wrong way at schools, will be corrected by the very ministry. But the matter also concerns school manuals for Religious Education. Developed for many years, they have been approved by the ministry because they do not include any mysterious information which would separate us from the reality. Today the ministry emphasizes its autonomy in treating classes of religion at school. It is really a confusion of terms.
And another thing to which we cannot agree, are sex trainings for children in new pre-school curriculums or the first school classes. It is deviation from the reason! Parents have the first right and duty here to speak about this issue loudly. We cannot allow for teaching sexual life to children, and without upbringing them in the conscience for basic distinctions of the good and the evil. These are parents who are the first educators, the first heralds of any knowledge, both about the world and oneself, as well as the religious one. It is mother who is the first to teach her daughter to look at herself with dignity, she will show her what chastity and beauty are, also of the human body. No trainings, no films will do it better than a mother, therefore, do not deceive yourself that this road is the best one for the future.

– A little joy is brought into the Church by the Light-Life Movement. At the conference, the matter of the unity of the Movement was being discussed.

– Yes. This is a kind of hope, which has been related to the charismatic person for years, today God’s servant, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki. I hope that his beatification process, which has already finished, is being analyzed on the Vatican level now, and will be an inspiration for us and a fundament for this unity. It concerns the unity in a sense of formation children and the youth, students, and also adults – the Home Church. For a few or a dozen years, just after the death of the Father founder, the Home Church took on an option of self- efficiency, and this is the same structure. The Home Church cannot be different from the formation of children and the youth in this spirit – because then, there is no real home, a real Church. The structures must be one, as well as processes, both the ones of school manuals and the formation ones must be the same, and we are different beautifully only when we have our own these or those meetings of retreats, formation, prayers. There is a chance that the nearest holiday time will also be this kind of a period of communities of the Church, not divisions in it according to the rule that I am Apollos, you are Paul, and he is Peter (see 1 Cor. 3,4-7).

– I was friends with Fr. Blachnicki in the first years of his activity, just before his imprisonment. I must say that he was a man entrusting himself and everything to Mary – similarly as Father Maksymilian Kolbe. Your Excellency is also a bishop of Mary….

– Thank you very much. Indeed as a participant of clerical oasis movements, in the 80s of the last century, I paid attention to the Marian feature of the pastoral work of Father Maksymilian and this feature of the founder of the Light-Life Movement, one of the main guides on the road of formation, as well as abstinence trend and upbringing for faithfulness to God till the sacrifice of oneself. It is this example from ‘Gaudium et spes’, saying that the human being can find his value only through gratuitous gift of himself for another man. Therefore, we are grateful to Fr. Franciszek that he stuck to good Polish roots, that is, also Marian character and examples from the history of the Church in Poland- - either Father Maksymilian, or later cardinal Wojtyła, who was the main guardian and the spiritual curator of the movement, and the expression of his conviction to this form of pastoral work was, among the others, a beautiful act of entrusting the movement to the Immaculate Mary on the hill Kopia Góra in Krościenko in 1973.

– One more issue appeared at the conference – workers negotiations concerning a write-off of 0.5 percent of tax for purposes of the Church. We know that in Poland the issue of the return of the seized property to the Church has not been settled yet – 31 percent of the estate of the Church is still in the hands of the state. How would Archbishop express his opinion on this issue?

– It is good that a book of Prof. Dariusz Walencik appeared, in which real losses of the Church were presented, on the basis of documents. If it was not for this strong historical basis, this governmental party might have various arguments against us. There are no discussions with facts. One must only get to know them, because it seems that they have not been a breakthrough yet, let’s say honestly, for parliamentarians who will vote about proposals presented by the government. If such countries as Czech Republic have not settled this dispute yet, and the Church gained autonomy, among the others, on the base of these possessions seized from it, so it should be similar in Poland. There is a similar situation in Hungary, and even in countries which seem less open up to the Church, like France or Scandinavian countries. They care a lot about monuments of the Church and do not add their interpretation, how the state devotes itself to ecclesiastical matters. They know it is a common heritage. Therefore, I will say in this way: not preparing our society for this kind of giving –the Church puts 0.5 percent from its taxes in a situation of a very difficult future. It seems to me, that this issue should be a subject of a negotiation, so that the common good would result from it, not closing the Church in a kind of a corner, in order to force it to ask for any grants. Why do I think so? Because we meet with such a situation and unemployment and poverty, that our Caritas centres and the united activity of Caritas Polska are not sufficient. And let’s remember that donations from the West are going further to the East or to other countries. Today, people coming to Caritas also receive sugar, flour or other products, but what will we tell them in a while? That we do not have anything more? And where can these people go? We must also note here that we do not have a write-off from farmers, and just agricultural people and villages are related to the Church the most. It means – we are sentenced to a situation which is very difficult and generates anxiety.
All these issues are difficult for studying. But I am glad that thanks to you I can express my opinion honestly and with open heart.


"Niedziela" 27/2013

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