FaithWorld

INTERVIEW-Lisbon treaty to boost EU, church contact-Cardinal Dziwisz

December 18, 2009

dziwisz 2There was something missing from our post yesterday entitled Pope John Paul remains touchstone for Poland’s Catholic Church — a link to the story Reuters published based on the interview that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz gave to Gabriela Baczynska and me. Since it hasn’t been posted separately on the web, here’s the story:

KRAKOW, Poland, Dec 16 (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church should use the EU’s new Lisbon Treaty to make its voice heard on moral issues in a Europe that has lost its Christian moorings, a leading Polish churchman said.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who spent decades in the Vatican as private secretary to the late Pope John Paul II, also said Poland, still one of Europe’s most devout countries, was helping to shore up the faith by sending priests to several continents.

The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force this month, provides for the first time a legal basis for consultations between EU institutions and religious groups.

“I believe there is a need for such consultations with churches so as not to make mistakes on moral or ethical issues, for the benefit of societies,” Dziwisz told Reuters in an interview authorised for publication on Wednesday.

“Let’s not forget that religion is also a great force that creates cultures and societies. It cannot be bypassed.” Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty commits the EU to holding “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with… churches and (non-confessional and philosophical) organisations”.

dziwisz and pope

Dziwisz and Pope John Paul, 2 Oct 2002/Vincenzo Pinto

The Vatican had campaigned hard but in vain for a reference to Europe’s Christian roots in a planned EU constitution which was scuppered by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The Lisbon Treaty is a reworked version of that now defunct constitution.

Echoing Pope Benedict, Dziwisz said Europe must rediscover its traditional Christian values, adding that a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) banning crucifixes from Italy’s schools was a bad omen for the whole continent.

“The cross is a religious symbol for us but also a cultural one… If Europe relinquishes her roots, her future will be unhappy. The cross is part of Europe’s heritage,” he said at his office in Krakow, Poland’s former capital and spiritual heart.

Last month, the Strasbourg-based ECHR said Italian schools should remove crucifixes from classroom walls because their presence could disturb non-Christian children. Italian mayors vowed to defy the ruling, which caused widespread anger.

krakow cathedral

St.Mary's Basilica in Krakow, 23 May 2006/Tom Heneghan

“In my opinion, at this point Europe has forgotten about her identity. But there are still forces which can rebuild it. I think the time will come for… rebirth,” said Dziwisz.

With its packed churches and busy theological seminaries, Poland provides a sharp contrast to many Western countries where the decline of organised religion is very much in evidence.

According to a poll earlier this year, fewer Poles attend church services every week than a decade ago, but at 37 percent it is still higher than in most of Europe. More than 80 percent still count themselves religious believers, the poll showed.

Confidence in the papacy, eroded by the Vatican’s handling of sex abuse scandals in traditional strongholds such as Ireland, remains firm at 80 percent, though German-born Benedict could never hope to match John Paul II in Polish affections.

Dziwisz attributed the enduring strength of the Polish church partly to a strong tradition of religious education.

The Catholic Church, especially in Poland, should pursue dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, he said.

Poland suffered under brutal Nazi occupation and later atheistic communist rule imposed by Moscow. The Polish Catholic Church played a key role in preserving the country’s identity and fostering the democratic opposition which triumphed in 1989.

“We have to forgive and remember so that evil is not repeated,” Dziwisz said. “To forgive does not mean to forget.”

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/