The Church Anno Domini 2007
The document ‘Spe salvi' is said to be a small encyclopaedia of great hope. It is the second encyclical of this Pope. According to Rev. Professor Henryk Seweryniak from Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, ‘Spe salvi’ was written by ‘the contemporary father of the Church, the wise man who can answer the questions of the present times’ and by someone who shows God as the only and ultimate source of hope. ‘This is the work of Benedict XVI himself’, says the Vatican spokesman Rev. Frederico Lombardi and at the same time he admits that we can expect the third encyclical concerning faith after the publications of the encyclicals on love and hope.
Exhortation and other documents
The Church gave signs of hope throughout 2007. Undoubtedly, they included other papal documents, for example the Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist issued in March or the document ‘Summorum Pontificum’ published in July, allowing priests to celebrate the Tridentine Latin Mass (earlier they needed their bishops’ permissions). The Vatican also issued a document prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled ‘Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church’, in which it reminded the faithful that the Church of Christ, in spite of the division between Christians, has the fullness of universality in the Catholic Church (the identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and its unicity). The document, contrary to many comments, does not close the ecumenical dialogue but stresses faithfulness to the Catholic identity. It is said to be the response to the reactions of some theologians after the publication of the declaration ‘Dominus Iesus’ in the year 2000. Then some accusations were brought. In November 2007, the Catholic-Orthodox document published in Ravenna inspired us with ecumenical hope. It reminds us of the historical role of the bishop of Rome. In 2007 Benedict XVI published his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.’ According to Fr Jacek Salij, OP, the book is of key importance, which can be compared with the encyclical of Pius XII ‘Divino afflante Spiritu’ (1943), which was a turning point in biblical studies.
In December the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued ‘Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization’, which stresses that ‘the ultimate fulfilment of the vocation of the human person is found in accepting the revelation of God in Christ.’
New rules of the conclave
The papal visits brought hope for contemporary man and the world. According to Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne the visit to Brazil in May (which was the papal sixth visit) began a great revolution in Latin America because the Holy Father posed the fundamental questions: how to strengthen the Catholic identity and what it means to be Catholic. Benedict XVI’s visit to Austria in September was of slightly different character. The Pope himself said that he felt at home there. The main purpose of his visit was the 850th anniversary of Mariazell where Benedict XVI called people to constant discovery of the Decalogue and to preserve the Christian roots in united Europe. The appointment of new cardinals by Benedict XVI brought about a considerable change in the universal Church. The consistory took place in November. Among the newly appointed cardinals was one Pole, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The Pope wanted to nominate Archbishop Ignacy Jez but he had died just before the consistory. There were other changes in the Vatican administration after the death of John Paul II. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was appointed the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who is said to be the originator of the Vatican Internet, became the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Rev. Gianfranco Ravasi became the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture (he replaced Cardinal Paul Poupard). Because Rev. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, who was the secretary of John Paul II for a long time, and then served Benedict XVI, was appointed the Archbishop-coadjutor of the Latin-rite Archdiocese of Lviv, Mgr Alfred Xuereb from Malta has taken office as the new assistant personal secretary to the Pope. And another interesting thing: Arturo Mari, the well-known photographer of John Paul II, retired after 50 years of work in the Vatican. It is worth mentioning that the beautification process of the Polish Pope was concluded on the level of the Diocese of Rome. It means that the most important phase of the collection of documents concerning the life, sanctity and heroic virtues of John Paul II was completed. There were speculations and commentaries whether he should be canonized or first beautified since his cult is so common and spread to a unique extent. Only Benedict XVI can take such a decision. Let us mention that in 2007 Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was transferred from Moscow to Minsk after 16 years, which marked the end of certain epoch in the history of the Catholic Church in Russia. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi from Italy replaced Archbishop Kondrusiewicz. Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger died. He was Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Paris and one of the most significant figures in the universal Church. ‘He often visited Poland. He was fascinated with Fr Popieluszko and he valued our nation’, said Poland’s Primate Cardinal Jozef Glemp in his interview for ‘Niedziela. The Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church Teoctist and Cardinal Adam Kozlowiecki passed away. And another important thing: in June 2007 Benedict XVI introduced a very important change in the papal election procedure. He issued a motu proprio in which he returned to the principle that a Pope can be elected if he receives two thirds of the votes. He wanted to make sure that the elected Pope would receive the considerable majority of the votes in the conclave.
New Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Warsaw
In 2007 Kazimierz Nycz was appointed Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Warsaw. Archbishop Nycz, former Bishop of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, a young and dynamic man, open to people and the world, turned to be an excellent organizer of the papal visit in 2002. He was regarded as the new hope of the Church and became one of her leaders. Within several months he got to know the Archdiocese of Warsaw, he visited all parishes of the Archdiocese, met every priest working in the diocese and then wrote a special letter to the priests, and began a reform of the curia. He appointed new deacons and new functions in the Archdiocese to develop its pastoral ministry. He also initiated the Divine Providence Centre, which would embrace the Sanctuary of Divine Providence as well as institutions promoting patriotism, Polish history and culture, including John Paul II Institute or a museum devoted to Poland’s Primate Cardinal Wyszynski. The appointment of the new archbishop to the Metropolitan See of Warsaw is certain to predict more changes and his ministry has many perspectives since Archbishop Nycz is one of the youngest bishops. He has been highly esteemed by various environments, including the political ones, first of all thanks to his competence, which was clearly shown during his meeting with the Minister of Education Mrs Katarzyna Hall in December. They discussed the preparation aiming at introducing religious instruction as another subject in the final high school examinations.
Bishop Edward Dajczak from the Diocese of Zielona Gora-Gorzow replaced Archbishop Nycz in Koszalin. And Bishop Piotr Libera replaced Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus in Plock. That nomination caused the change of the general secretary of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. In June Bishop Stanislaw Budzik became the new general secretary. In June there was the change of the director of Caritas Polska. Rev. Marian Subocz became the new director. 2007 brought about the end of the affair concerning the Sisters of the Bethany Family in Kazimierz Dolny. They disobeyed the decision of the Pope and although they were to leave the congregation they occupied the convent building for two years. Finally, the court ordered their eviction. According to Fr Dariusz Kowalczyk, the Provincial of the Jesuits, the saddest thing was that the nuns were not faithful to the Church. Sister Jolanta Olech, the President of the Poland’s Conference of Superiors of Religious Female Orders, stresses that those nuns violated the principle of obedience, and that religious life is the life in the Church and for the Church and not outside the Church. The year 2007 abounded in many anniversaries, including the 50th anniversary of the Peregrination of the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, the 90th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, the 85th anniversary of ‘The Knight of the Immaculate’, the 120th birthday of Father Pio. We also gained several Poles ‘on the altars’ since there were the beautifications of Celina Borzecka, of Fr. Stanislaw Papczynski (who was the confessor to the King John III Sobieski!) or the canonisation of Szymon of Lipnica. Speaking about the most important events in the Polish Church in 2007 one should mention those who passed away: Archbishop Kazimierz Majdanski, Bishop Ignacy Jez and Rev. Monsignor Zdzislaw Peszkowski.
Apart from spectacular events, noticed by the media in Poland and in the world, the whole Church conducted her pastoral ministry day after day and administered sacraments. There were spiritual struggles and victories, which were not always visible. The Church constantly, not only in the year 2007, proclaims hope to people and the Church lives by hope. For this is the nature of the Church.