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The Episcopate Apologizes

Gazeta Wyborcza, 28th May 2001

Polish Episcopate has apologized to God for Polish crimes committed on Jews.

Bishop Stanisław G±decki: - We feel deep pain because of the conduct of all those who over the centuries, and especially in Jedwabne and other places, made Jews suffer, or even put them to death.

Last Sunday night, in the Warsaw Church of All Saints, which used to be on the border of the ghetto during the war, the bishops conducted a penitential service because of the murder of the Jews of Jedwabne. A celebration like that, concerning specific crimes, was unprecedented in the Polish catholic church. The service was a mourning one. The bishops came in black cassocks, accompanied by the organ playing an improvised theme following the ?Holy God.? The procession was led by Cardinal Primate Józef Glemp, wearing a violet cope symbolizing the mourning. He was carrying a cross.

Bishop Stanisław G±decki, Chairman of the Religious Dialogue Council of the Episcopate of Poland made an introduction to the prayer. Among other things, he said the following: - As the pastors of the Church in Poland, we want to stand in truth in front of God and the people, and especially in front of our Jewish brothers and sisters, referring in sorrow and repentance to the crime that took place in Jedwabne and in other places in July 1941. Jews became its victims, and Poles and Catholics, baptized individuals, were among the perpetrators. The menace of that crime is even greater, as in the time of National Socialism, the Jewish nation that had received the ?Thou do not kill? commandment from God, experienced a special measure of the killing, according to the words of John Paul II pronounced in Auschwitz.

- While trying to reconcile with God and with the people, we intend to begin the new century and the new millennium with an even greater faith and reliance. Let us never Katyń or Auschwitz, Kołyma and death camps be repeated, nor the Jedwabne, the bishop added.

- We suffer deeply from the conduct of those, who during the centuries, and especially in Jedwabne and in other places, made the Jews suffer, and even put them to death, bishop G±decki said. - We relate to that crime also because of that we should be able to fruitfully undertake responsibility to overcome any evil that occurs today. The effort to ?clean the memories? becomes a difficult task to clean our consciousness. We undertake the task and once again we condemn any manifestations of racism and anti-Semitism - known to be sinful.

Having read fragments of the Holy Scripture, several dozen of bishops knelt to beg God for forgiveness, by pronouncing the public confession. Later, the bishops read nine invocations to pray.

- Let us pray for Jews, the nation of the first Covenant, that they continue to be faithful to the commandment to love God and their neighbors, and that they never experience violation nor devastating violence again, the Episcopate?s Secretary, bishop Piotr Libera, said.

- Let us pray for those who do not appreciate the contribution of Jews to the world and to our national culture, and especially for those who nourish aversion and rancor towards the Jewish nation, that they receive from God the grace to transform their hearts towards a genuine and fruitful reconciliation, the metropolitan Archbishop of Gdańsk, Tadeusz Gocłowski, cried loud.

- Let us pray for the victims of any hatred, especially that against the Jewish nation, for those murdered and dying in pain and despair, that they gain eternal peace and happiness with God, bishop Wiktor Skworc prayed.

Then the Cardinal Primate repeated the words of the Pope, pronounced during the Ash Wednesday: "God of our fathers, who chose Abraham and his progeny, so that Your name be carried to the nations: we deeply suffer from the conduct of those who during the history brought suffering to those sons of Yours, and while begging You for forgiveness, we intend to build a lasting bond of true brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.? He then pronounced the prayer written by John Paul II for the Jewish nation.

The following ones joined in the service, among others: Speaker of the Prliament, Mr. Maciej Płażyński, Foreign Minister, Mr. Władysław Bartoszewski, IPN President, Mr. Leon Kieres, former Prime Minister, Mr. Tadeusz Mazowiecki.

Mikołaj Lizut, 27th May 2001.