From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LWF president commends Poland's contribution to changes in Europe
13 Apr 2000 12:54:18
WARSAW, Poland/GENEVA, 13 April 2000 (lwi) - The president of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Dr. Bishop Christian Krause, has hailed
Poland's contribution to the peaceful transformation process in Europe
since the late eighties.
In discussions with Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek during a visit to Poland,
5-9 April, Krause said that "without the power of faith" that was
preserved in that country among other places, the changes that began in
1989 in Europe would not have been imaginable.
The premier, a member of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg
Confession in Poland, stressed that his country is an open society in
which the rights of minorities are respected.
The focus of Krause's five-day visit was a "contribution to bringing
churches together". The 80,000-member Lutheran church there was among
the founding members of the LWF.
During discussions with the LWF president, Poland's Roman Catholic
Church primate, Josef Cardinal Glemp, described the relations between
the local Catholic church and Lutheran churches as "good" and pointed
out that their headquarters share a common boundary.
Glemp and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Josef Kowalczyk, affirmed their
interest in bringing the churches closer together, and acknowledged the
importance of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
which was signed by the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church on 31 October
1999 in Augsburg, Germany. The Cardinal added: "The ecumenical movement
must now move forward." The Lutheran and Catholic churches in Poland
have agreed to set up a joint commission for consultation on theological
Krause challenged the Polish churches to "fill their new fellowship with
life". He encouraged the Roman Catholics to agree to the mutual
participation in the Eucharist as guests. He pointed out that while this
is not yet Eucharistic fellowship, it is a first step in that direction.
In addition, ecumenical worship should be given the same importance as
worship within one's own church.
In January this year, the Catholic church and six other churches from
the eight-member Polish Ecumenical Council signed a joint declaration in
which they acknowledged mutual recognition of Baptism. The common
agreement results from the work of the joint committee established for
the dialogue between the two groups in 1998.
In view of the ongoing integration of Europe, Krause underlined the
"churches' common responsibility for mission", to ensure that Christians
would not some day become a minority. "We must create a new culture for
Europe, a Christian one," he added.
Krause expressed concern about the new areas of work for the LWF
member-church since the changes in 1989. According to the Presiding
Bishop Jan Szarek, Lutherans are active in military and prison
chaplaincies as well as religious instruction in state schools. The
church is also expanding its diaconal work, with eight homes for elderly
persons and nine social centres.
Bishop Szarek, who is also president of the Polish Ecumenical Council,
was in February 2000, awarded one of the highest state honours for
services to ecumenism and European unity. In an interview with the
Geneva-based Ecumenical News International (ENI), after receiving the
award from President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the bishop was quoted
saying that although "all churches have been freed from political
pressure and been able to act on their own initiative" (since 1989) the
religious atmosphere in the country "leaves much to be desired."
A new law enacted in 1994 governs church-state relations in Poland. In
1998 the Roman Catholic Church to which more than 90 percent of the
population belong, settled its relationship with the government by means
of a concordat. There are no agreements between the state and the other
churches. "We Lutherans are recognised," said Bishop Szarek, "but one
cannot yet speak of equal rights for churches in Poland."
In separate discussions, the president of the Polish parliament, Maciej
Plazynski, told Krause it was the state's intention to treat all
churches equally and not to accord special privileges to any one of
them. As soon as the commission assigned to these issues had completed
its work, the legislative body would take up the matter.
(Contributed by Udo Hahn, press officer of the LWF German National
(The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries
representing 59 5 million of the world's 63.1 million Lutherans. Its
highest decision-making body is the Assembly, held every six or seven
years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by a 49-member Council,
which meets annually, and by its Executive Committee. The LWF
secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)
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Assistant Editor, English: Pauline Mumia
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