Memory » Witnesses on John Paul II
Witnesses on John Paul II
Significant events

Władysław Bartoszewski – activist of the Polish Underground State, participant in the Warsaw Uprising,
served twice as Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs

Europe is one of these concepts that even though it is an ordinary one, it still comprises of an overwhelming variety of meanings. One may discuss Europe in terms of geographical, political, economic, cultural and institutional grounds. These are only a few most obvious examples. John Paul II was guided by the prospect of Gospel in his vision of European unity, even in times when this unity remained still actually in a remote, almost truly visionary domain.
His Europe was based on the most lasting and superior to other foundations, and so on with respect to its Christian identity and universal values of humanism.

A characteristic feature of the John Paul II’s pontificate was – generally speaking – the pursuit to overcome divisions, and also the Pope’s vision of Europe should be in particular perceived in the category of this prevailing message. In my perception it is an essential initial remark, which should be kept in mind when speaking about the European issues in the Holy Father’s views and statements. Because it shows that they are anchored not so much in the sphere of tentative political or social issues accompanying the period of his pontificate, but rather in a deeper area of basic Christian teaching and the doctrine of unity included in it. 'There exists a vision of unity of all the things and all the people in Christ', these are seemingly simple, but hiding a depth of reflection words of the John Paul II, which in my opinion may be applied as a starting point for considerations on common Europe, fitting into perspective of so called 'great integration', reaching the most fundamental principles of Christian faith. Great integration, it is anyway not my expression, it was borrowed for the needs of this lecture from the publication issued by the Great Chancellor of the Catholic University of Lublin, Archbishop Jozef Zycinski - European Community of Spirit, to whom I am grateful for inspiration and source of knowledge in formulating my thoughts.

It should, however be taken into consideration, that in such action a conciliative objective was not and is not blurring differences, but rather emphasising what - seemingly only paradoxically - diversity brings as a common thing. This is also a very important premise in reflections on the European issues! Falsely perceived integration (hastily understood as the synonym of unification) was and still remains the reason for numerous prejudices and fears. Whereas, from the John Paul II's vision such European picture arises, in which the power of common supranational heritage of tradition and cultures, with a simultaneous guarantee of identity and autonomy of each community or region, become its force.

Autonomy should however not be reduced ad absurdum to isolationist attitude, but its sense should be perceived in a lively exchange with others, in openness, mutual understanding and readiness for dialogue. In the John Paul II's opinion, 'each separate tradition, if it remains confined, exposes itself to the risk of impoverishment' (Slavorum Apostoli Encyclical). These are the words, which should be remembered also today. John Paul II's Europe is Europe of fatherlands bound by a common Christian responsibility and spirituality originating from the Gospel. Such European diversity constitutes the central part of the Pope's teaching with reference to the richness of our continent.

The spirit of Europe and European values are not abstract terms. The generation of Karol Wojtyła - to whom the following words belong - have seen many systems of power, which usually - as they have shown - brought the illusions of the stability. The experience of our generation have proven that betting on the momentary and ostensible stability is short sighted, dangerous even. Life and progress - also the economic one - hide a lot of surprises. Healthy communites of interests without sentimental illusions, however also without abandonng faith in all goals and believes, create a good basis towards a stable and safe future.

That is why Holy Father stressing the christian foundation wanted Europe not only to be efficient, which would be able to take on the upcoming challanges, but he also wanted Europe that the main goal would not by onl focused on becoming the market of exchanging goods and services or the area for the realisation of interim interests. Continuous foundation of common heritage of civilization and its acceptance, should decide the affiliation to Europe and intitutions determining its identity at large.


June 1, Crackow 2015

                                      Photos: Arturo Mari - Servizio Fotografico L’Osservatore Romano & Judyta Papp, JP2 Love All Rights Reserved ©

Bp. Pieronek on the Second Vatican Council – the biggest event of the 20th century in the Catholic Church

This year is the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of the general council, called to Rome by Pope John XXIII. It lasted four years (1962-1965) during which bishops from all over the world analyzed the current religious situation and pointed out effective ways of preaching the Gospel in the present-day world. The Council together with the Pope constitute an entity of the highest authority in the Church, which is why the provisions of said Council, later named the Second Vatican Council, became a world sensation and were accepted with great interest not only by Catholics.

The Council's documents gave the impulse to many changes within the Church. National languages were introduced into the liturgy instead of obligatory Latin. Bishops were strongly in favor of religious freedom of every human being, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, undertaking dialogue with the world as it is. They were also in favor of the model of relations between the Church and National community which, respecting the independence and autonomy of both of those communities, allows them to cooperate for the common good of the individual and the society. Of course, these are only some of the more important issues which the Council deliberated upon.

So far in the history of the Church there have been 21 general councils, attended by those bishops that were able to come. Contemporary means of transport, especially the efficient air transport, made it possible to gather more than 2000 bishops – including Polish ones, despite the problems with procuring passports in times of the Polish People’s Republic – for the Council that was held over 50 years ago. Alongside the well-known Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the Primate of Poland, there was one person who soon became more widely known among the participants – Bishop Karol Wojtyla, Metropolitan of Cracow, who expressed his opinion on a few crucial matters under discussion.

The Second Vatican Council, as an event on a worldwide scale, has been documented extensively, also photographically, by television stations and thousands of professional and amateur photographers. The photos presented here are my personal documentary made on an amateur plate. At that time, I was in Rome attending to my studies, which happened to coincide with the Second Vatican Council.

This explains a certain monotony of the collection, since direct access to the event was limited. As such, most of the photos were taken at St. Peter's Square, as it is open to public, because whenever the doors of the Vatican Basilica, where the Council took place, were opened, the bishops were seen leaving the building in order to return to their lodgings, either by use of their private methods of transports or the reserved coaches. It was a good opportunity to meet with them and take a commemorative photo.

It was possible to enter the Basilica after obtaining special permission – usually, it was a ticket to a Mass celebrated by the Pope. A rare occasion to present the interior of the conference room and the incredibly colorful picture of its occupants on a single photo.

The third opportunity to take photos of the Council's participants was at the place of their living, because the Polish bishops enjoyed the hospitality of two Polish Church Institutions present in Rome – the Polish Institute at via Pietro Cavallini 38 and the Polish College on Aventine at Piazza Remuria 2A. As the students lived alongside the bishops, it sometimes happened that that students went with their bishop for a short trip and commemorated it with a few photos.

Not all of the photographs are possible to describe after 50 years time. I focused my efforts on photographing the Polish bishops, which is understandable, but usually I knew neither who their speakers were nor where they came from, though the color of their skin or the specific type of clothes they wore did offer me some clues.

It seems that this documentation, although incomplete, offers an external image of the Council, which was available at that time to anyone who was interested in it. However, it does not show the enormity of the changes that were initiated by the Council’s thoughts and the decisions in the Church and around the world. This wealth of the Second Vatican Council was enclosed in its doctrinal and pastoral documents, followed by a peculiar avalanche of administrative acts that allowed for making changes as postulated by the Council in many fields of life.

Reforms of church institutions and structures were seemingly the easiest, but it was much harder to bring about a change of mentality, which determined the effectiveness of any changes. Cardinal Wojtyla, aware of how fundamentally difficult it was for believers to assimilate the spiritual achievements of the Council, undertook the gigantic work in Cracow, which he called: 'Learning the Council'. He claimed that it is necessary and possible. Moreover, he has prepared a book entitled: ‘Sources of Renewal. The Implementation of Vatican II’, which was, in fact, a handbook for the participants of the pastoral synod of the Archdiocese of Krakow that he himself had convened. During the Synod, in special study groups, they have been trying for nine years to familiarize the faithful with the true message of the Council and give them a conciliar key of assessment and behavior of a Christian in today's world.

The Synod of Krakow (1971-1979) turned out to be a good school of the Council during those very difficult times in Poland, but it also served as valuable pastoral experience to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the Metropolitan of Cracow, with which he took the Catholic Church into his care as Pope John Paul II.


Cracow, 22 Jan 2012
Text: Bp. Tadeusz Pieronek. Photo: Judyta Papp, JP2 Love All Rights Reserved ©



The Second Vatican Council - see the photos by Bp. Tadeusz Pieronek



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