Europe according to John Paul II

Artur Stelmasiak

The economic and political crisis of the European Union reveals the weakness of fundaments on which the European Union is built. Today we have to refer to the European thought of Blessed John Paul II. It is one of the main conclusions made by the participants of the conference ‘The European thought of John Paul II’ which was held in Belveder. A dozen of prominent intellectualists, professors, publicists as well as bishop and the host of the meeting – President Bronislaw Komorowski - were thinking over this issue. – Building the unity of Europe on spiritual values, which have created Europe, also refers to the process of its political integration within the European Union. It is worth coming back to this heritage and the time of holding the presidency by Poland in the European Union Council is a special occasion for it - the president stated.

Hopes of the Pope

Dr Marek Cichocki from the European Centre Natolin emphasized that John Paul II, through his whole pontificate, was creating the narration of Europe which was recognizing its Christian roots and breathing fully with ‘both lungs’. Cichocki was also thinking over the papal understanding of the words: homeland and Europe. He described the first one as the heritage and the state of property resulting from it: land, territories and, what is more, values and spiritual content which compose the culture of a specific nation. – Speaking of Poland, the Pope did not use such words. It is a community understood more deeply than only in the legal and political or national sense, drawing from the common various roots, mainly the Christian ones – explained Cichocki. In his opinion the form connecting the international community of the Old continent should have ethical and spiritual nature and not only the political or economic ones. – And Europe understood just in this way was the hope of John Paul II, and Europe is also our task – Cichocki emphasized. Primate senior archbishop Henryk Muszyński recalled the statement of John Paul II of July 1979 in Gniezno. At that time, the Pope spoke about the necessity of building the spiritual unity of Europe on the Christian values. The whole Europe: the Eastern and Western. – It was a great prophetic vision at the time when hardly anyone believed that such a great change would come - archbishop Muszyński noted. – After the fall of the Berlin Wall John Paul II began to warn that another invisible wall appeared which passes through people’s hearts and divides the continent – archbishop Muszyński explained. It is a wall built of fears, aggression, lack of understanding, political and economic egoism, lack of sensitivity to human life and human dignity.

Unrealized community

Prof. Jerzy Kłoczowski, the director of the Institute for Middle and Eastern Europe in Lublin, spoke about the great role of John Paul II in the process of the European integration. He emphasized that one of the central motives of teaching by John Paul II was culture as the basic element which makes the man be human. – Rooting in the culture and accentuating national traditions were extremely important in John Paul’s II teaching. Whereas in the contemporary world those tendencies are strong which postulate for forgetting and uprooting the national and religious memory from the man - the historian warned. Kłoczowski reminded that during the Revolution of Manners in 1968 it was forbidden to forbid, and the supporters of the revolt, who proclaimed freedom without responsibility, wanted to lead into a total unification which would result in no conflicts. – While the only rooting in one’s culture helps to understand other cultures, that is, makes it possible to integrate – the professor said. Fr. Prof. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, the general secretary of the Commission for European Community Episcopates noted that the Pope distinguished between two types of mentality – the European and Asian ones. Europe was formed by evangelization. Therefore, Cardinal Wojtyła decided that the Christian antiques - the Greek and Roman ones – are proto-European cultures. Only Christianity, with the dignity of the man created to God’s similarity, with embodiment and redemption, gave a unique outline of Europe.

Fr. Mazurkiewicz who works in Brussels, recalled voting in the European Parliament when there was an attempt to pass a resolution, according to which Benedict XVI was to be blamed for genocide, an attempt of limiting the right for using freedom of conscience and an attempt of commercialization of human embryos or, finally, the matter of the cross in the European Tribunal for Human Rights. – We have won but the fact that such issues were discussed means that the vision of Europe by John Paul II still waits for implement - the general secretary of Commission for European Community Episcopates emphasized.

The prophet of Europe

The discussion on the Pope’s teaching was also attended by Hanna Suchocka, the ambassador of the Republic of Poland at the Holy See. In her opinion John Paul II noted the rights of the national, religious minorities and women. However, he emphasized consequently that there is also a catalogue of ‘anti-rights’ which do not deserve to be acknowledged as human rights. It was one of the disputes in the contemporary world which involved John Paul II very much. – I think that we have not learnt the lesson of John Paul II, we cannot feel where tolerance should finish and where relativism begins –Suchocka said. The conference was also attended by the chairman Polish Ecumenical Council archbishop Jeremiasz, the Orthodox Ordinary in the diocese of Wrocław and Szczecin. He emphasized that from the very beginning of his pontificate, John Paul II was aware of the responsibility and chance which were opening ahead of him and he used that chance till the end. John Paul II was also a visionary, because long before the crisis, which convulses the world at present, he appealed for reforms in the trade or monetary systems. – The Pope’s thought is very optimistic, full of love and hope to the man, that God leads us through the history and will also lead Europe - archbishop Jeremiasz emphasized. Whereas Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz noted that there is still a great need for scientific reflection on the Pope’s heritage. – I am glad that the discussion on one of the important teaching areas and the ministry of John Paul II has been taken up and which concerns his relation with Europe and his European thought – the Cardinal said. – This Pope thought about Europe, cared about Europe and constantly reminded us of the conditions which must be fulfilled so that Europe would be a real unity. Today it appears that not fulfilling these conditions brings us difficulty with our European solidarity. So, the Pope was a prophet in the area of European matters.


"Niedziela" 44/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
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