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Pastoral letter from the bishops of Poland

An Open and Methodical Struggle 
Against Religion

In a lecture delivered on May 5, 1976 by Minister Kasimir Kakol, Head of the Office of Worship in Poland, to journalist members of the Polish Press Agency, militants of the Communist party and other collaborators, the Minister affirmed very categorically the struggle led openly by the Communist authorities against the Church. He recognized that their aim was “to eradicate religion from human conscience and thought”. “As a Communist,” he said further, “I will fight religion and the Church incessantly”; he also indicated the tactical means to use for this purpose.

It is clear that this methodical struggle carried out by a dictatorial regime exposes the faith of Catholics to serious dangers. So, at the end of their 154th National Conference, the Polish bishops published a collective pastoral letter to exhort the faithful to struggle for the defense of their faith, threatened by the anti religious programmes of the authorities. L'Osservatore Romano points out that it is an eloquent document which calls for serious thought not only on the part of Polish Catholics, but of all those who still imagine that there is no contradiction — and no danger — between the Christian profession and support given to anti-religious ideologies and regimes which aim openly at the destruction of the Faith and the Church.

Mary, Shield of Our Faith

Beloved Sons of the Church of Christ in Poland! It is with sentiments of deep gratitude for the motherly sovereignty of Mary, the Queen of Poland, over our nation, that we are looking forward to the 600th anniversary of the presence of the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin at Jasna Gora. In the first year of preparation for this Jubilee, we recall the history of our country and we see that this history is permeated by the miraculous action of the Queen of Jasna Gora.

The Blessed Virgin of the Sanctuary of Czestochowa intercedes in favor of individuals. But it must also be recognized that for six hundred years She has been our help in defense of the highest values of our Christian nation. Above all She has been a shield in defense of the Holy Faith: for centuries She has sustained, consolidated and defended our faithfulness to God and our membership of the Church of Christ.

Supreme Value of Faith

Who does not know what great importance faith and love of God has not only for our personal life but also for families, peoples and the whole human family?

Faith in God satisfies the deepest desires and the most intimate aspirations of man. In each of us God has instilled the aspiration to Supreme Good and to lasting happiness. No temporal value, therefore, can fully satisfy the hunger of the human heart. Only the True, Living God is capable of filling us with supreme happiness, because He is Love.

Faith increases your vigor in all sectors of life and personal and social work. The desire of the Living God makes men obedient to divine aspirations. In this way they make the style of life and of society more and more noble and worthy of man. For all believers one of the conditions to meet God and possess Him forever is love of their neighbor in daily life.

Its Extreme Importance for Family and National Life

Faith is very important also for family life. No human law, regulation or sanctions can ensure the integrity, compactness and fruitfulness of the family as much as the living and unifying faith of all its members.

This is what can be done by the living faith of the whole nation in God, the Father of all men. Poland has exceptional experiences as regards how living Faith and the Church of God have helped it to overcome so many persecutions, moral vexations, slavery and occupation.

The Catholic Faith has strengthened and united Poland for over a thousand years. So today, too, as throughout the centuries, we consider it our essential, fundamental tie of a national-religious character. And today we raise a hymn of thanks to the Madonna of Czestochowa who, from the Sanctuary of Jasna Gora, has helped us to defend faith in Christ for 600 years.

The Dangers that Threaten Our Faith

But it is not only to joyful feelings of gratitude that we must call you, but also to vigilance. Our greatest treasure, the Catholic Faith, is continually threatened. The skillfully masked programme of making the nation atheistic is becoming an ever more serious matter, since it tries in every way to deprive the life of our social community of the spirit of Christ’s Gospel.

A superficial glance at the life of the Church in Poland may give the illusion that the activity of the Church in our State meets with no obstacles. Everyone, in fact, desires normalization. In actual fact however, the hateful, brutal struggle against faith in God and against the Church of Christ has not yet ended. A mysterious conspiracy against God is felt everywhere, at all times. The programme of making the nation atheistic is being undertaken and carried out on an ever vaster scale also by institutions of formation and by social and political institutions.

In Violation of Human Rights

But the state community, as a public institution, must act for the good of the whole of society; it has no right to carry out a hostile action against religion, against freedom of conscience and against the faith of citizens. Such an action is, above all, a violation of the natural rights of every citizen. On these rights are based the articles of all constitutions and of all international declarations, such as the United Nations Charter of Human Rights, which guarantee every citizen freedom of religion and confession. In our country the majority of citizens are believers and they belong to the Catholic Church. If, then, civil servants carry on the struggle against religion, they are guilty of a serious abuse as regards the citizens, who pay taxes for their maintenance. The struggle against religion is sustained with funds that come out of the pockets of believing Catholics. Who does not see, then, a strange ambiguity in this painful state of affairs?

Authorizations for the Construction of Churches Refused

Unfortunately, similar abuses take place quite often in our country. The regulations of the law on building are used to hinder the progress of religion and also to limit veneration of God. The necessary authorizations for the construction of churches and chapels are refused for years. These churches are needed above all in the new urban districts and in the new industrial agglomerates. And when the inhabitants, impatient at the continual refusals, begin to build temporary chapels to be able to carry out their religious duties in the neighborhood of their homes, then they are severely punished or subjected to various vexations. This problem, which, with the growth of cities and other human agglomerates, is becoming a more and more painful one, has not yet been solved, since the number of permits for the building of new churches is not sufficient to meet the needs. So the Bishops have to publish various communiqués and call upon the faithful to pray to obtain freedom to erect buildings for worship.

Discrimination in the Right to Work

Another painful problem is constituted by religious discrimination in the application of the right to work. The exercise of some professions and the obtaining of various positions, especially on an executive level, are reserved almost entirely for persons who declare they are unbelievers or lapsed Catholics. Promotion in some sectors of work depends on membership of socio-political organizations, which require from their members the profession of atheism, putting a stop to church going and to the religious education of their children. Even the acceptance of candidates in some schools depends on the declaration of disbelief.

Because of their so-called religious activity, believers are often deprived of certain posts and also of work, even though they had carried out their professional duties very well, having obtained distinctions and prizes for their good work. This is often done openly, but even more often in an underhand way, on the pretext of various motivations.

Various Methods of Struggle Against Religion

The methods used in the planned campaign are various. In social life, in the juridical system, some changes are introduced from time to time. It is said officially that they are for the purpose of the economic restructuration of the system. Actually, however, we find ourselves up against new methods of struggle against the Faith and against the Church. It is known that the struggle against religion also hinders economic and social reforms, since it arouses concern and distrust of the State, leading to a slackening of the rate of work and performance. Embittered people are not good workers.

Struggle Carried Out Through the Mass Media

The struggle against religion, carried out by means of pressure of a juridical and administrative character, is difficult and risky, since it arouses reactions and it compromises the State authorities in the eyes of world public opinion. It cannot be carried out universally and radically. Therefore another system has been applied: to appeal to the mass media, that is, to culture. A vast sector of Polish theater, television and even publishing has been mobilized in anti-religious propaganda. This struggle, well concealed to begin with, has now become open and aggressive, Atheistic propaganda often presents the history of the Church, in Poland, particularly, in a false light, distorts the content of Holy Scripture and presents religious practices in a way that hurts the feelings of believers. Liturgical and sacramental life is replaced by a lay ceremonial, which is often very shallow.

The media of social communication, on the other hand, propagate anti-Christian moral principles. This concerns above all the indissolubility of marriage, the problems of sexual morality and the interruption of pregnancy. As is known, one of the ways that lead to unbelief is the spread of corruption. One often has the impression that the media of socio-cultural communication have gone over to the service of depravation. Plays, films and publications that are openly pornographic and sacrilegious, are multiplying. These plays, films and publications are imposed more and more often on children and young people. They often strike at literary works of great moral and Christian value, distorting them and depriving them of religious spirituality.

We are saddened and surprised that some respectable creators and artists or editors dedicate their artistic and professional capacities to a service which is so repugnant and harmful socially. All of us must appeal to the central authorities to end these abuses, which harm the dignity and the very conscience of our nation.

The Struggle in Defense of the Moral Health of the Young

So the struggle in defense of the Faith and integrity of the hearts of the young, goes on. Catholic parents and their children say more and more often that teaching in schools at the various levels and also in schools of higher education, serves to instill unbelief. It is proclaimed without any justification that religious concepts cannot be reconciled with the results of contemporary science. In many places, children and young people are prevented, or an attempt is made to prevent them, from benefiting from catechetical instruction, taking part in Holy Mass and sacred services or carrying out other religious practices. This concerns particularly the children and the young in the State nursery schools and boarding schools. In the summer holiday camps, this year, too, it was forbidden to take part in religious practices, and sometimes even to keep any religious sign such as, for example, medals, crucifixes or sacred images. Resistance may cause the exclusion of the child from the summer camps or the application of other illicit sanctions.

Various captious objections are used also against University students who are believers. Threats are used, blackmail, long and tiring interrogations, to dissuade students from taking advantage of the religious aid of the University apostolate.

Declarations of a Member of the Government

The main aim of the anti-religious plans concerns the faith of youth and, what must arouse the most energetic opposition, the budding faith of helpless children, even of the children who are not yet of school age. In the current year, a well-known Government exponent declared in a speech that the new times of holidays must upset the programme of work of the liturgical calendar of Catholic activities and the religious compactness of Polish families. He also added that the new system of training children and young people in the so-called collective schools, will make its own contribution to uproot the Faith in the hearts of children. For this purpose, tourist trips and, above all, the so-called social acts and Sunday work will be organized by the industries or other public institutions on Sundays and other feast days.

A Well-Prepared Plan to Destroy the Faith

This is the distressing picture of the conditions under which the Church is working in our country. The political programme to implement atheism is being carried out more and more energetically. Its introduction into practical life proceeds in stages, so that our society will not realize easily that it has been subjected to the maneuvered process of the destruction of Faith.

Keep Watch and Pray

Our Lady of Jasna Gora
Part of the Pope’s prayer to Our Lady of Jasna Gora, who is the defence of the Polish people:
“I recall yet again the time when you were “imprisoned” while you were making your pilgrim visit …
Yet your visit continued.
Your image did not arrive at the parish, but you came — without the image, in an empty frame and thanks to this empty frame, everyone experienced your presence just the same: more sadly, but perhaps more deeply.”

Beloved Sons, are we Polish Bishops to remain silent in this situation? Someone must tell the Catholic nation the truth. We do not wish to frighten you with this presentation of the enormity of the dangers, but rather we desire to repeat here the words of St. Peter the Apostle: “Brothers, be sober, keep watch! Your enemy, Satan, like a lion …” (1 Peter 5:8).

We beseech you, confess your faith in Christ courageously and faithfully. Watch over the catechetics of children and the young. Cultivate the Holy Faith in families. Above all, defend the Faith with fervent prayer. We call you to prayer in common. Remember the assurance that Jesus gave us: “If two of you gather in My name, I shall be with you ….”

We will pray through the intercession of the Madonna of Jasna Gora, Who is help in defense of our nation. Where shall we find another help capable of defending our Faith, if not in the Mother of God? In whose name can we unite in this way for the defense of God’s cause in our country, if not in the name of Mary of Jasna Gora?

In the next few weeks, in all Polish parishes your pastors of souls will invite you to the Day of Prayer to the Madonna of Jasna Gora in defense of the Faith. They will communicate to you the dates and other details of this day of prayer. Do not grudge time for these prayers. Pack our churches as full as possible. Ask Jesus Christ confidently to make the efforts of the enemies of religion vain. Raise your supplications for the intercession of Our Lady, Mother of Heaven and Earth, the Mother of the Church.

We entrust you to the vigilant protection of the Mother of Jasna Gora, and from the bottom of our heart we bless your prayers for the defense of Christ’s Faith: since the victory that conquers the world is our Faith!