APPEAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE POLISH BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
FOR MUTUAL RESPECT AND CULTURE IN PUBLIC DEBATE
For some time now, in both public debate and private interpersonal relations—and even in family life—, we have been seeing a disturbing increase of social tension and a lack of respect for people with different views among Poles. This is accompanied by brutalizing language, as well as threats and aggressive behavior.
Discussion, debate, and the exchange of views are natural in a democratic State. Varying opinions and different political, economic, and social visions contribute to the wealth and intellectual potential of our society. However, divergences and disputes may never cause humiliation and disrespect. For this reason, since we are also aware of possible provocation, with the intention of distorting the real image of our society and inflaming opposition, we must explicitly condemn all acts of violence directed against political opponents, representatives of other faiths, religions, and foreign nations. Poland is our home. It is the home of those who, respecting the laws and customs prevailing here, want to build their existence and a sense of stability in friendship and harmony.
Moreover, it is necessary to condemn all manifestations of disrespect towards the highest offices of the Republic and towards the people who serve them. Diverging opinions cannot obscure their democratic, social mandate and never justify the use of non-parliamentary means of discussion. Whenever a brother has risen against his brother, and a Pole against another Pole, our unity and our independence have suffered.
As Christmas approaches, at the beginning of the year in which we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of regaining independence, I fervently urge all Poles to spread peace in our society. Peace can only be achieved if each begins by his own conversion, renouncing hatred and prejudice. Christ summons: “Love your enemies!” (Mt 5:43). We must not be our own enemies, because—even when we have different opinions—we are brothers.
Saint John Paul II, speaking in 1983 during the “Polish Christmas Eve” in the Vatican, said: “Our Polish Christmas tradition is a tradition of reconciliation. The wafer is the bread of reconciliation […]. If God comes to be with us, then I, a simple man, must reconcile myself with my brother. We break this wafer with different people, sometimes with those who are very close to us, with whom we have many links, but sometimes also with others. And we break it with people from afar, with whom we have little in common […] Through this wafer, we become brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters, just as God sees us.”
May this now rapidly approaching Christmas Season be a time of reflection on the good that has become our share in the past year. May it be a time for calming emotions and making rational decisions with regard to how public debate will be conducted in the coming months, for the benefit of future generations and the good of Poland, our Homeland.
+ Stanisław Gądecki
Metropolitan Archbishop of Poznan
President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference
Vice Chairman of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE)
Warsaw, 13 December 2017