Politics

Polish bishops call for reception of refugees in Christmas homilies


A number of Catholic bishops in Poland have used their Christmas homilies to promise help from the church for refugees and call upon their compatriots to show compassion for the people caught up in the crisis on the border with Belarus, where tens of thousands of people – mainly from the Middle East – have been trying to cross.

Some other senior members of the church hierarchy used their holiday sermons to warn that Christmas itself is under attack and that, if it is not defended, there will be “no more Poland” and “no Europe”, in the words of Kraków’s archbishop.

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Referring to Pope Francis’s appeal for solidarity with migrants and refugees, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, the archbishop of Warsaw, said that the Catholic church in Poland had offered to accept “a specific number of refugees…in cooperation with the government”.

“This will be an important symbol of love for this Christmas,” he explained, quoted by Do Rzeczy. “One might say a present on the Polish Wigilia [Christmas Eve supper] table.”

Nycz admitted that this gesture was not enough to solve all the “enormous” problems of migration. “But we are showing that as people and as Catholics we are not indifferent to these difficult issues,” he said. “Refugees have the just and moral right to expect help from us.”

His appeal for concrete responses to those suffering and dying as a result of inaction also referred to the Polish victims of the pandemic, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“Who is responsible for the illness and unnecessary death of large numbers of our compatriots, often our loved ones? How long can one wait for more concrete actions?” Nycz asked.

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Wojciech Polak, the archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland, reminded the congregation of the plight of people camped in the forests at Poland’s border with Belarus, “stripped of their human dignity, criminally exploited as a human shield in the warring intentions of the Belarusian dictator”.

Referring to Pope Francis’s appeal to European governments to allow church institutions to help with the crisis, Polak told the Catholic Information Agency that the Polish episcopate wanted to “develop previous actions”, although it could not do so without government support.

He said that he would be willing to accept refugees in the Gniezno archdiocese. “But acceptance alone is not enough. What is needed is a far-reaching, broad-ranging aid system to allow them to find themselves, integrate and function in the new place.”

“A person in need must always be helped regardless of the circumstances,” he added. “This is the Christian faith. This is what Jesus teaches. He too was a refugee…We must not close the door to those who for various reasons are forced to leave their homes.”

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Marek Jędraszewski, the Archbishop of Kraków, struck a different note in his sermon, warning that Christmas must be defended from attacks from institutions such institutions as the European Commission.

He referred to recent internal guidelines for inclusive language that the commission issued, which discouraged the assumption that everyone is a Christian. They suggested avoiding such phrases as “Christmas time can be stressful”, instead saying “Holiday times can be stressful…for those celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah”.

“Where will this end?” Jędraszewski asked the congregation. “How can the truth about God’s birth, proclaimed in Europe for almost 2,000 years, which has soaked so deeply into its cultural fabric that in a sense Europe is unable to understand itself without it, offend someone?”

“If Christmas is pushed out of our continent, there will be no more Europe in its cultural, and therefore most profound meaning, just a scrap of Eurasia inhabited by people lacking their spiritual roots,” he warned, quoted by Do Rzeczy. “If we allow Christmas to be erased from our national memory, there will be more Poles or Poland.”

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Wacław Depo, the archbishop of Częstochowa, also spoke of the need to be vigilant against attempts to “attack Christian culture, customs, traditions, that are an expression of faith”.

He cited a European Commission calendar for school children from 2010 which he claimed ignored Christmas and Easter but included Halloween as well as Hindu and Muslim holidays.

He also criticised Christmas posters published by several Polish cities that have drawn criticism for their perceived secular character, reports Onet.

Main image credit: Roman Bosiacki / Agencja Wyborcza.pl





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