Unrest on the Polish-Belarusian border, challenges facing the Church in Poland and Germany, and the Synod of Bishops on synodality were the main topics of the meeting between the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki and the President of the German Bishops’ Conference Bishop Georg Bätzing, on 30 November in Poznan.
The meeting of the Presidents of the two Episcopal Conferences included a larger group-discussion, which was also attended by the Vice-Chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Katowice Wiktor Skworc and the Auxiliary Bishop of Poznan Szymon Stułkowski. The Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences also had a private conversation.
In connection with the conflict on the Polish-Belarusian border, Archbishop Gądecki and Bishop Bätzing criticized how the Belarusian authorities are treating the refugees that President Lukashenko’s regime has deliberately brought to the borderland in order to destabilize both Poland and the European Union. Bishop Bätzing described as condemnable the “use of refugees” on Poland’s eastern border for political purposes. Both presidents acknowledged that the suffering of those seeking refuge should not be exploited by either side. “Refugees are not criminals but victims of unscrupulous machinations and intrigues. Therefore, they deserve to be treated with respect and to be supported,” said Bishop Bätzing. The president of the German Episcopate thanked the Church in Poland for the involvement of border parishes and local Caritas in supporting migrants.
On the topic of the challenges facing the Church in both Poland and Germany, it was emphasized that the trust of the faithful in representatives of the hierarchical Church has declined because of cases of sexual abuse of minors and their cover-up in recent decades. The Presidents of the two Bishops’ Conferences acknowledged that only through continuous clarification and renewal of religious life can the dignity of the victims be restored and the lost trust regained.
In this context, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference explained to the Polish interlocutors the principles of the so-called Synodal Way, which the German bishops have chosen together with the Central Committee of German Catholics. For his part, Archbishop Gądecki expressed the generalized concerns in Poland regarding the German synodal process in the formation of church structures and the interpretation of doctrine. Bishop Bätzing, in turn, explained that the Synodal Path seeks to respond to new challenges. “However, I understand the concerns that arise elsewhere, but we in Germany have a duty to discuss the theological issues raised and to discuss them carefully. For me, one thing is certain: the Church in Germany is part of the universal Church and lives and develops according to its principles,” Bishop Bätzing stressed.
The presidents of both Episcopal Conferences expressed satisfaction with the state of relations between the Church in Poland and Germany. “I am grateful for the willingness to continue meeting. The encounter in itself is a kind of value that is worth nurturing. Our Churches are closely connected to each other in the sense that they are next to each other and share many issues, problems, and joys,” noted Archbishop Gądecki.
Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference
Translated by s. P. Nau / Office for Foreign Communication of the Polish Bishops’ Conference