AN EVENING OF THE PAPAL REMINISCENCE
The Museum of Coins and Medals of John Paul II in Częstochowa, organizes meetings devoted to its patron on 18th of every month. The guest of the meeting which was held on 18 September, was Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś, the chief editor of ‘Niedziela’. As a host of the evening, the director of museum Krzysztof Witkowski appeared, and the talk with the guest was conducted by a journalist Izabela Tyras from Jasna Góra Radio.
Times of Cracow
- On 28 September 1958 me and other clerics from the Częstochowa seminary, which had its headquarter in Cracow, were at the ceremony of bishopric consecration of Fr. Karol Wojtyła in the cathedral at Wawel – mentioned Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś. – I remember how much concentrated and how much bent he was as if he was feeling the burden of bishopric ministry. After all, when he was receiving the bishopric sacra, he was only 38 years all, he was a young priest.
The reason for another contact was the famous book of Fr. Karol Wojtyła ‘Love and responsibility’ - A spiritual friar of our seminary, Fr. Stefan Bareła, asked me to give back the typescript of the book to bishop Wojtyła, which had been prepared for publication, and to which he had written a review – continued Fr. Skubiś. – Giving back the typescript I noticed that Bishop’s flat at Kanoniczna street was extremely modest.
One of the pastoral features of bishop Karol Wojtyła was care about education of priests. The authorities made the situation difficult, among the others, the Theological Department at the Jagellonian University was resolved – Today there are completely different possibilities, and at that time priests did not have any possibility to gain MA degrees, by which bishop Wojtyła was grieved – mentioned Fr. Skubiś. – At that time I was an administrative director of the Theological Studies in Częstochowa and we invited him for the inauguration of the academic year. I remember even today the sermon on the academic status of clergy, which was preached in the church of St. Barbara in Częstochowa. He had topics profoundly thought out and elaborated.
Bishop Karol Wojtyła travelled to Lublin for many years in order to give lectures to students of the Catholic University of Lublin. – At that time, was studying at the Catholic University of Lublin and I sometimes attended his lectures, although I was in a different faculty – reported Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś. – Those were difficult and precisely prepared lectures, it was necessary to have good concentration all the time in order to follow the way of understanding.
The attitude of Fr. Wojtyła to the youth is especially known, and the proof for his care about young people was, among the others, great support which the future Pope gave priests who were undertaking initiatives addressed to the youth, like oasis of Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki or festivals Sacrosong organized by Fr. Jan Palusiński. Fr. Skubiś quoted a fact known to everybody, that cardinal Wojtyła had paid a visit to Sacrosong in the Częstochowa cathedral in 1978, shortly before his leaving for the conclave during which he became pope.
On 16 October 1978, the news about the elections of the pope thrilled all Poles. – I found out about the election in the academic church in Częstochowa, during the Holy Mass for students which I used to celebrate every day at 7.15 p.m. – Fr. Skubiś mentioned this significant moment.- One of students gave me a piece of paper onto a pulpit saying ‘Wojtyła a Pope – John Paul II’, and my voice broke and I finished the Holy Mass with difficulty.
From the beginning of the pontificate the interest in the person of the Pope was great, but censorship did not allow for information in official mass media. Fr. Skubiś thought about noting down the news from the Vatican Radio, and then rewrite it on a typewriter through a carbon-paper and distribute it among trustworthy people. The bulleting printed every week was called ‘A monitor of the Church’, and later a book entitled ‘I want to come to you…’ was printed, which was a collection of texts from the ‘Monitor’. The title was a quotation of John Paul II’s words and the whole issue was distributed rapidly. The ‘Monitor’ had come out till the moment of renewal of ‘Niedziela’. The date of the planned edition of the weekly converged with the assassination to John Paul II and the death of the primate Wyszyński. As Fr. Skubiś mentioned, the edition prepared for printing had to be changed in order to place two historical news on the first pages.
‘Niedziela’ in the ministry of the Pope
‘Niedziela’ renewed after 28 years of the break, was subjected to various restrictions. The authorities allowed for printing it in a volume of only 8 pages, and, certainly, it was controlled by censorship. As Fr. Skubiś emphasized, for the whole pontificate, the weekly remained in the ministry of the Pope, published papal documents, reflections of general audience, words addressed to Poles, informed widely about papal pilgrimages and events in Vatican.
The year 1983 was the year of the second papal pilgrimage to Poland. During debates of academic pastors, there appeared an idea about organizing a meeting of Pope with the youth at Jasna Góra, in the form of answering questions. ‘Niedziela’ addressed its appeal to readers to send their questions. Some of hundreds of questions were sent to Vatican, but there was no answer whether the meeting would take place in this form. – Before the Jasna Góra Appeal Prayer, when the papal procession was going to the altar, suddenly the Holy Father departed from the procession, came up to me and said: ‘And we will manage with these questions in another way’ – Fr. Skubiś mentioned. – This gesture of the Pope raised understandable surprise. The Pope, probably decided that he would answer the questions during reflection at the Appeal Prayer. After the Appeal Prayer, he came up to me again in the sacristy and asked: ‘So, are you pleased?’
In 1996 the team of ‘Niedziela’ went on a pilgrimage to Vatican. – We were welcomed in Vatican beautifully – said Fr. Skubiś – and my evening was very special, because I was celebrating my name-day at dinner at the Holy Father’s. On this occasion, sisters gave a cake for dessert. A lot of untypical news is connected with another pilgrimage of the Pope to Poland. Being asked by the journalist IzabelaTyras, if the rumour was real that it was ‘Niedziela’ which had caused the visit of John Paul II to Częstochowa in 1999, Fr. Skubiś explained: - We were frustrated with the news that in the pilgrimage itinerary there was not Jasna Góra. At a meeting of curia, during the visit, archbishop Stanisław Nowak said, and it was Friday: ‘The Holy Father may come to Częstochowa…’ I grabbed this hope and asked if I could give this information in the newspaper – and Archbishop, who might have not understood exactly the sense of the question, nodded his head.
The news got quickly onto the first page of ‘Niedziela’, which had already been in a printing house. After the newspaper came out, there was a lot of commotion, and a lot of phone calls. – At that time the Pope was in Ełk, our metropolitan archbishop Nowak went to meet him there, and returned with the great information: ‘The Holy Father is coming!’ – said Fr. Skubiś- The news spread like wildfire, a lot of people arrived in Jasna Góra. – God used us, so that the Holy Father would visit Jasna Góra, however, the last time – Fr. Skubiś was commenting on this special chain of events, reminding famous words of the Pope said in Gliwice: ‘I will go to apologize Our Lady of Częstochowa and I will go away with a peaceful conscience…’
Among personal souvenirs of the meetings with the Pope, Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś has a mobile phone – a gift from John Paul II, letters and postcards hand-written, photographs and films about pilgrimages. Participants of the meeting will have an occasion to see the memorial phone and the film which was made from archive recordings. In the second part of the meeting, Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś was answering questions in an auditorium. The evening was ended with a concert of a harpist Małgorzata Komorowska.