Donate now

Polish Bishops' Conference

Polish Bishops Issue Letter for Saint Pope John Paul II Centenary (Full Text)

‘Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.’

In this difficult time for us all – when we struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and question the future of our families and society – it is worth asking what he would he say to us today? What message would speak to us his countrymen in May 2020? First come to our minds these words which he spoke to us in the homily inaugurating his pontificate. “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ,” emphasizes the Praesidium of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in a letter on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul II.

The letter of the Praesidium of the Polish Episcopate will be read in churches on Sunday, May 17, on the eve of the anniversary of the birth of the Polish Pope. The bishops recall, among others, the words that St. John Paul II said in his homily beginning his pontificate in 1978: “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows +what is in man+. He alone knows it”. “Yes, Christ knows, what each of us carries within ourselves, He perfectly knows our joys, worries, hopes, fears, and yearnings. Only he can answer the question, which we ask ourselves today,” they wrote.

“If the Polish Pope lived today, he would surely understand people who are in isolation and quarantine. He would pray for the sick, the dead, and their families. He himself was repeatedly sick and suffered in conditions of isolation hospital, with no possibility of celebrating Mass with the faithful. His brother Edmund died at the age of 26, as a young doctor when he contracted an illness from a sick patient, giving whilst attending to them. His tombstone has the inscription +He gave his young life was given to aid suffering humanity+. To commemorate his older brother, our holy Pope kept a medical stethoscope on his desk. Saint John Paul II understood and valued the work of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and medical workers, for whom he often prayed and with whom he met,” we read in the letter.

The Praesidium of the Episcopate stresses that the Pope from Poland visited 132 countries and about 900 towns. “His teaching is still valid. It is worth reaching for it, particularly through the internet and through social media, making use of the possibilities, offered by new technology. Already in the year 2002, the Pope called the whole church to set out into the deep, the deep of cyberspace,” the bishops point out. “Today, when during the pandemic of the coronavirus the world is fighting for every human life, it should be remembered that John Paul II demanded the protection of human life from conception to natural death,” they add.

The letter also recalls the words of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz describing the moment of the assassination attempt on the life of John Paul II: “I remember that at the time of the assassination in St. Peter’s square, [the Pope] remained calm and composed, although the situation was dramatic and the threat to his life was enormous. When asked by me, he confirmed that he felt pain caused by wounds, also showed me their places. However, we cannot speak of any panic. Before he lost consciousness, he immediately entrusted himself to Mary and said that he would forgive the one who shot him”.

The bishops also quote Pope Francis, who in the introduction to the book Saint John Paul II, 100 years. Words and Images published in the Vatican on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of John Paul II, confessed: “Many times during my priestly and episcopal life I looked at him, asking in my prayers for a gift of fidelity to the Gospel, just as he testified to the Gospels themselves”.

We publish the full text of the Letter:

THE PRAESIDIUM

of the Polish Bishops conference’s

Letter on the occasion of the 100th anniversary

of the birth of John Paul II

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. This year we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Saint. John Paul II, who was born on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice. This great saint has made an invaluable contribution to the history of our country, Europe, the world, and the history of the universal Church. Much has been said and written about Karol Wojtyla, and his biography is well known and has even been seen in various films. In this difficult time for us all – when we struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and question the future of our families and society – it is worth asking what he would he say to us today? What message would speak to us his countrymen in May 2020?

First, come to our minds these words which he spoke to us in the homily inaugurating his pontificate. “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows „what is in man”. He alone knows it.” (22.10.1978). Yes, Christ knows, what each of us carries within ourselves, He perfectly knows our joys, worries, hopes, fears, and yearnings. Only he can answer the question, which we ask ourselves today.

St. John Paul II was a man, whose life clearly showed the suffering and the uncertainty of tomorrow. His path to sanctity lead ranks of difficult life experiences, such the premature death of his beloved mother or the atrocities of the Second World War. He accepted these events with the faith that God ultimately guides human history, and death is not the Creator’s desire. If the Polish Pope lived today, he would surely understand people who are in isolation and quarantine. He would pray for the sick, the dead, and their families. He himself was repeatedly sick and suffered in conditions of isolation hospital, with no possibility of celebrating Mass with the faithful. His brother Edmund died at the age of 26, as a young doctor when he contracted an illness from a sick patient, giving whilst attending to them. His tombstone has the  inscription “He gave his young life was given to aid suffering humanity.” To commemorate his older brother, our holy Pope kept a medical stethoscope on his desk. Saint John Paul II understood and valued the work of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and medical workers, for whom he often prayed and with whom he met.

2. The beginning of the road to the Priesthood of Karol Wojtyła took place during World War II. Together with his compatriots, he was a victim of two totalitarian systems: national and international socialism. They both rejected God. Both grew up on a pride, contempt, and hatred for the other. Both took freedom and dignity from people. Both carried fear and death. Both these systems also worked closely together to exterminate the Polish intelligentsia and transform the Polish nation into slaves. At that time, young Karol Wojtyła was a worker in the quarries of the Solvay chemical factory in Łagiewniki near Kraków.

The next chapter of the book of St. John Paul II is his service as a priest and bishop of Cracow. After two years of study in Rome, he became a vicar and catechist at the parish in Niegowici, later he worked in Krakow. He lectured in seminaries and universities. On September 29, 1958, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Kraków, and in 1964 he became its metropolitan archbishop. He actively participated in all sessions of the Second Vatican Council. In 1967, Pope Paul VI created him cardinal. During the communist regime, he strongly defended Christian values. Open to dialogue, he saw his brother in everyone. He constantly appealed for respect for the dignity of every human being. He emanated with pastoral enthusiasm. He devoted a lot of heart to working with young people, students, and young married couples. Trips to the mountains, skiing, camps in the bosom of nature served him to bring people closer to God. He joked, listened, and taught, setting high goals and requirements for young people. „The discovery of Christ is the most beautiful adventure of your life” – he said first to young people in Poland, and then – around the world.

And so, the historic day came on October 16, 1978, when Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected pope. Here it turned out just how important the figure of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was in his life.  After being elected Pope, John Paul II said: „There would not be on the See of Peter, this Polish Pope, who today full of the fear of God, but also full of confidence begins a new pontificate, if it wasn’t for Your faith,  your resolve not to flee from prison and suffering, Your heroic hope , Your untiring entrustment to the Mother of the Church. If it was not for Jasna Góra. ” Both were deeply connected with the Jasna Góra sanctuary. There, they entrusted everything to the Mother of God.

The Cardinal’s election of Karol Wojtyła as the successor of St. Peter opened a new chapter, not only in his life, but likewise in the history of the Church in Poland and in the world. Less than a year later, the words of prayer resounded in Poland: „I am calling, I, son of Polish land, and I, John Paul II, the Pope. I am calling from the depths of this Millennium, I am calling on the eve of the Feast of Pentecost, I am calling with you all: Let Your Spirit descend! Let Your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth. This land! ” These words, spoken on June 2, 1979 during Mass. at the then Victory Square in Warsaw, they became a turning point in the process of Polish democratic changes. They gave the courage and the hope Poles needed at that time. Today – in retrospect – we can treat them as prophetic words.

3. St. John Paul II preached the Gospel to the Whole World. He visited 132 countries and about 900 places. His teaching is still valid. It is worth reaching for it, particularly through the internet and through social media, making use of the possibilities, offered by new technology. Already in the year 2002 the Pope called the whole church to set out into the deep, the deep of cyberspace.

In proclaiming the need to respect the rights of every human person, the Pope defended the most weak and vulnerable. Today, when during the pandemic of the coronavirus the world is fighting for every human life, it should be remembered that John Paul II demanded the protection of human life from conception to natural death. He emphasized that in no area of ​​life could civil law replace a properly formed conscience. When many are concerned about demographic change, depopulation and aging of Europe, his words are still a valid warning: „a nation that kills its own children is a nation without a future.” In 1991, in Radom, Saint. John Paul II said: „This cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is joined by another great cemetery: the cemetery of the unborn, cemetery of the defenseless, whose face even their own mother did not recognize, accepting or succumbing to pressure to take their lives before they even born. And yet they already had this life, they were already conceived, they developed under the heart of their mothers, without feeling any mortal threat. And when that threat became a reality, these defenseless human beings struggled to defend themselves. The television camera has preserved this desperate defense of the unborn child in the womb against aggression. I once watched such a film – and to this day I cannot free myself from it, I cannot free myself from its memory. It is difficult to imagine a more terrible situation in its moral human dimension.

„Poles and Poland were a very important part of the life of Saint John Paul II, who after years confessed:” The affairs of my homeland have always been and are very close to me. Everything that my nation experiences is deeply carried in my heart. I consider the good of the homeland to be my good” (audience to Poles on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the pontificate, 1998). Poland was the country most frequently visited by the Holy Father – he made nine pilgrimages to his homeland. He always came with a specific message to his compatriots, adapted to the current religious and political situation. Each of the pilgrimages was treated by Poles as a national retreat, and millions of people participated in the meetings with the Pope. Saint John Paul II called on Poles for social justice and mutual respect. and social solidarity. Solidarity – it means: one and the other, if there is a burden, it is to be carried together, in common, in community. So never again, one against the other, one against the other. And never a “burden” to be born by man alone. (Gdańsk, 1987).

4. For many people the witness about the truth of the Gospel, which St. John Paul II gave to the world sounded most convincing when he had to personally deal with suffering and illness, and at the end of his life faced the necessity of death. He first encountered the experience of great suffering with the assassination attempt on May 13, 1981. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, long-time personal secretary of St. John Paul II and a witness of his holiness, remembered this extremely dramatic time: „I remember that at the time of the assassination in St. Peter’s square, [the Pope] remained calm and composed, although the situation was dramatic and the threat to his life was enormous. When asked by me, he confirmed that he felt pain caused by wounds, also showed me their places. However, we cannot speak of any panic. Before he lost consciousness, he immediately entrusted himself to Mary and said that he would forgive the one who shot him. „

On the last day of his earthly pilgrimage, April 2, 2005, John Paul II was full of inner peace and submission to the will of God. As Cardinal Dziwisz recalls, the Pope was „immersed in prayer, he was aware of his condition and what was happening to him. He asked to read fragments of the Gospel according to Saint John.  He farewelled his colleges, among them Cardinal Jospeh Ratzinger, the nuns who looked after him, the photographer Arturo Mari. When we were celebrating Mass, he was getting weaker, with and ever lessening awareness, but still ready to go to the Father’s house.”

During the funeral of John Paul II, on April 8, 2005, the wind closed the Gospel book on his casket with a strong gust. As if he had closed the book of his life. At the end of the ceremony, the faithful gathered in St. Peter called out „Santo Subito!” „Immediately a saint!” In this way they asked the Church to proclaim what they were sure of: this Pope was a truly a holy man!

We are very happy that on May 7 this year – almost exactly on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Paul II – in the basilica of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice, where he was baptized, with the consent of the Holy See began the beatification process of his parents: Servants of God Emilia and Karol Wojtyłów. We know well that there would be no man, priest and bishop like Karol Wojtyła, if his parents had not had great faith.

5. Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul II, in the introduction to the book published in the Vatican on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Polish Pope confessed: „Many times during my priestly and episcopal life I looked at him, asking in my prayers for a gift of fidelity to the Gospel, just as he testified to the Gospels themselves. Fifteen years separate us from his death. It may not be much, but it is a long time for teenagers and young people who did not know him or who have only a few vague memories of his childhood. For this reason, on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, it was right to commemorate this great holy witness of faith whom God gave to his Church and humanity. (San Giovanni Paolo II,100 anni, Parole e Immagini, Prefazione di Papa Francesco [Saint John Paul II, 100 years. Words and images, with an Introduction by Pope Francis], Città del Vaticano, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2020, s. 3, 6).

From the death of Saint. John Paul II, people from all over the world pray constantly at his grave in the Basilica of Saint. Peter. Through him, they ask God for necessary favors. Let us join them and pray – through his intercession – for the intentions that we carry deeply in our hearts. Let us pray for our homeland, Europe, and the whole world. Let us pray for the pandemic to end, for the sick, the dead and their families, for doctors, medical service and all those who risk their lives for our safety. Let the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Polish Pope be a call to brotherhood and unity for us. Let it be a source of hope and trust in God’s Mercy.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us. Amen.

 

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki

Archbishop of Poznań

President of the Polish Episcopal Conference

Vice-President of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conference (CCEE)

 

Bishop Artur G. Miziński

Secretary General of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

 

Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski

Archbishop Metropolitan of Cracow

Deputy President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

 

Warsaw, 7 May 2020

 

This letter is to be read on Sunday, May 17, 2020.

About Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

Share this Entry

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation