February 28 1982 1

[opening remarks] Holy Mass for the Fatherland on February 28 1982 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko.  In place of the homily he read to the congregation in the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka the Declaration of Polish Bishops.  

We gather in the name of Jesus Christ.  We gather to place our prayers at Christ’s altar and with them everything that we are experiencing, at this moment, in the life of our Nation.  We especially include in our prayers those whom the martial law has touched most painfully.  We take in all those deprived of their freedom, those arrested, retained, deprived of work, and their families.  We also include all those who serve the injustice and the lies.

[declarations of Polish Bishops and the Primate]

The Church always stands on the side of truth.  The Church is always on the side of those who are harmed.  Today, the Church stands on the side of those who have been deprived of freedom, whose consciences are being attacked.  The Church stands today on the side of workers’ solidarity, on the side of working people who are frequently put into the same category as criminals.  On December 15th, last year, Polish Bishops said the following ¹

Chief Episcopal Council of Poland gathering in the time of martial law, based on the available information of the situation in Poland – directs to the faithful of Catholic Church, words of support, unity and brotherly sympathy.  Our pain of the entire nation terrorized by military power.  Many members of the union movement have been interned.  Interment is widening and affecting workers as well as people of culture and learning and students. (…)  The uncertainty and impotence of the working world causes increased emotions, bitterness and hate, to the point of determination. (…) The dramatic decision of the authorities to impose martial law on our country is a blow to the expectations and hopes that, through nation-wide understanding, one can resolve the existing problems of our country. (…) We wish the Church and the people to concentrate on the following goals.

  1. The release of those interned and establishing for them acceptable living conditions. We are aware of many cases of abused, of placing people without warm closing in freezing quarters.
  2. The re-activation of labor unions, especially “Solidarity”, as per their statutes, and this includes the enabling the Leader and the Committee to function freely. The union “Solidarity” which defends the rights of working people is vital to the return of equilibrium in public life…
And on January 6 of the current year (1982) on the day of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Primate said:

The demand to sign the declaration, of varying contents, especially about the withdrawal from “Solidarity”, is affecting ever larger groups of workers, and when they decline signing, it results in loss of employment.  Obtaining such declarations is unethical.  Peoples’ consciences are in conflict: on the one hand there is personal dignity, respect for one’s beliefs, guaranteed by state and international laws and, on the other, the sanction of unemployment, condemnation to inactivity, as well as the realization of the fact that the country is being deprived of skilled labor, because only persons of character, the valuable citizens, have problems with their conscience.  Conscience is a very personal sanctuary.  Even God does not violate the conscience of man, but will, eventually, judge us by our conscience.²

 And again on January 19th, 1982 Polish Bishops said:

We send special greetings to all who suffer, those interned, imprisoned, convicted, those accepting with great sadness the absence of their relatives, all who suffer for their beliefs, all who lost their work.  With special love we greet the thousands of children longing to see their father or mother.  With Christian sympathy we greet the families of those who mourn the tragic deaths of their loved ones.  We join them in their pain.

The call to freedom is tightly connected to the nature of every man and to a mature understanding of nationality.  The call is related to law and duty.  It is connected to law because every man and every nation has to experience any restriction of freedom as pain and injustice.  Restriction of the freedom due to man leads to protests, revolts and even war.  The call for freedom is related to the duty of understanding that freedom is not free will, but a challenge to every man.  It is a challenge demanding thinking, consideration, ability to choose, decision.

Contemplating the truth that the call to freedom is every man’s and every nation’s right, we call on everyone, on whom this depends, to respect freedom, especially freedom of conscience and beliefs of every man, to face the love of freedom so very much felt by our Nation.  The consequence of this respect for freedom should be the return to normal functioning of the state, prompt liberation of all the interned, termination of pressure on matters of ideology as well as discontinuation of denying workers their jobs because of their beliefs of their membership in a union.

In the name of freedom we declare that the working man should have the right organize unions into independent, self governing units, and the youth to organizations appropriate for them. ³

[closing remarks]

Leaving, let us remember that we are returning home in the mode of concentration and recollection.  Please leave in the church the lyrics for ,,Boze Cos Polske”.  And to strengthen our hope and courage, let us accept the blessing.


¹ Declaration of the Chief Council of Polish Episcopate 12/15/1981 in: John Paul II, Primate and the Polish Episcopate on martial law.  Homilies, letters, speeches and reports, edited by P. Raina, Office of Poets and Artists, London 1982 pp.55-56.  The text was based on translation by Agence France Presse (AFP) because due to the objections ig gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the orginal text was not published in Poland.

² Archbishop Josef Glemp, Primate of Poland, Pastoral Teachings 1981/1982, Pallottinum, Poznan 1988, p.197

³The Word of Polish Disphops on 1/19/1982 from “L’Osservatore Romano” 1/1982 (subsequently referred to as “L’OR”) In Polish Churches text was read on 1/24/1982.