Bishops Offer Analysis of World War II

German and Polish Prelates Call for Peace

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BONN, Germany, AUG. 26, 2009 ( In a joint communiqué on the occasion of World War II’s 70th anniversary, German and Polish bishops underlined the need for young people to justly analyze the conflict.

The message, signed by the presidents of the German and Polish bishops’ conferences, respectively, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch and Archbishop Jozef Michalik, was published Tuesday.

It called on «the new generations to acquire and preserve a just evaluation» of the war.
«Despite the difficulties,» the bishops pointed out, «not only do we have need of an honest evaluation of the atrocities of the past, but also of giving up the stereotypes that make a correct understanding of that time more problematic, and can undermine confidence.»
In September 1939, the German Armed Forces invaded Poland, igniting World War II.
Now, the bishops of both countries came together to underline the necessity of protecting peace and the «education of men free from hatred.»
Their message warned, «Some tendencies in society or in politics reveal the temptation of a propagandist use of inflicted wounds to revive the resentments fueled by a factious interpretation of history.»
«Because if this,» it continued, «the Church intends to pronounce herself against the elimination of the historical truth by calling for intense dialogue, always linked to the capacity to listen to the other side’s reasons.»
The bishops recognized that «some wounds have yet to be healed» and referred to «the millions of victims persecuted and sacrificed because of racist ideology, ancestry or faith,» among them Jews, gypsies, the mentally handicapped and the elite of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

In their statement, the prelates jointly condemned «the war crimes» and the deportations in the war and post-war eras. They recalled the negative consequences of the war in both of their countries, such as subjection to communist regimes.
«In Eastern Europe, the war had the objective of destroying and enslaving whole peoples,» the bishops stated.
They continued, «Poland’s governing elite, among them intellectuals, academics and members of the clergy, was affected by a policy of extermination that sought to subject a whole nation.»
The document appealed for good faith, forgiveness and the recognition of one’s own fault.
It also called for more prayer for peace, greater cooperation between the religious institutions of Germany and Poland, unified promotion of the family and protection of life, and a joint endeavor in the evangelization of the world, especially the greater part of Africa.
The statement pointed out that «only in a climate of forgiveness and reconciliation can a culture of peace be developed that serves the common good.»
«Peace is built day by day and can only flourish if we are prepared to recognize our responsibility,» it stated.
The bishops affirmed that «the gift of peace must be lived in one’s own heart so that it can be spread to families and the different forms of social organization, and finally encompass the whole community of nations.»
Finally, the message highlighted the «historic step constituted by European integration,» urging its readers «not to let the opportunity of building peace, offered by the unification of the peoples of Europe, pass by.»

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