In an interview, Archbishop Jozef Miroslaw Zycinski of Lublin commented on the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa” (The Church in Europe), which he helped to present to the press last month at the Vatican. The papal document brought together the conclusions of the 1999 Synod of Bishops for Europe.
Q: How does “Ecclesia in Europa” fit in to the Old World’s present situation?
Archbishop Zycinski: From my point of view, this prospect of European unification is something fantastic, a reality that is more beautiful than a dream. When in 1979 in Gniezno, the Holy Father said that Europe should unite, that that was its future, he was criticized by many, including in the West, as they said that this vision of a united Europe, of the whole of Europe — East and West — was no more than an expression of the Pope’s Polish “messianism.”
For us, who were living in a totalitarian system, in which expression of the faith took place with the suffering of its witnesses, the prospect of a united European family, of a “home” of the united European family in virtues of its roots, was something far more optimistic than we could then imagine. Twenty-four years later we discovered that in that prospect there was no messianism, but only truth.
Q: And yet, in the document the Pope underlines that it seems that recognition of the Christian roots of that European home is rejected. Why is it important to insist so much that it be explicitly recognized?
Archbishop Zycinski: Because it is not possible to understand the Europe of today by omitting its roots, which are Christian roots. Elimination of this reference would be like censuring history.
In Poland, and in the whole Soviet bloc we suffer this Orwellian censure of history. And I think that in the new Europe, there must be a possibility to live in the truth, without censure.
Q: Who is so bothered by the history of Europe to the point of wanting to censure it?
Archbishop Zycinski: The history of Europe is that of the East and West. Perhaps it isn’t so much an intellectual problem as a diplomatic one. I am referring to what is “politically correct,” which becomes something more important than truth. So we find ourselves in this situation of censure. For us, in Eastern Europe, truth is more important, because we have suffered much, too much.