Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest at the St. Stanislaw Kostka church in Warsaw, was abducted by the Polish security forces on October 19 on a road outside the city of Torun and killed. He sent this statement abroad last year.
The state of the Church will always be the same as the state of the people. The Church is not just the Church hierarchy: it is all the people of God, a nation of millions, who constitute the Church in the greater sense, and when they suffer, when they are persecuted, the Church suffers.
The Church’s mission is to be with its people day in and day out, partaking in their joys, pains, and sorrows. The primate and the bishops of course have in their care the well-being of all, and diplomacy is therefore at times necessary in the Church’s higher ranks, to protect people from suffering and mistreatment whenever it is possible to do so. There are those who sometimes misunderstand and criticize this, for they want the Church to take a more decisive stand against the authorities. But such is not the Church’s task.
The Church has repeatedly insisted and continues to insist that the authorities respect human dignity—which is not being respected; that they free the imprisoned. Through the efforts of the Church and of its affiliated Prisoners’ Relief Committee, aid has reached those most severely persecuted. There is no better proof than this that the Church has indeed carried out its mission during martial law.
Has the lifting of martial law changed anything?
I’ve spoken out several times about this from the pulpit—unequivocally. As recently as the end of July, quoting official Church pronouncements in my argument, I concluded that in lifting martial law, something the bishops had called for so often, the authorities failed to take advantage of yet another opportunity for reconciliation with the nation. The amnesty was a subterfuge, calculated for one sided gain—whereas the country had every right to expect that the amnesty would right the wrongs, especially the moral wrongs, committed during martial law. To this day our democratically elected brothers, behind whom stand millions of their countrymen, languish in prisons. And even those who have benefited from the amnesty must feel at times like hostages, for this is a conditional amnesty. They must sign statements that go against their own conscience.
The Holy Father has spoken on this subject of the freedom of conscience: conscience is something so holy that even God himself does not put limits on it. To do so through such forced statements is to offend against divine law. The lifting of martial law, a move buttressed by so many new regulations, must give each Pole the distinct impression that the shackles, partially loosened from around the hands, are tightening around the soul and conscience. There are many more restrictions now than before; freedom is curtailed even further. And that’s why there is bitterness: here was one more chance to join hands, one more chance to try…
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