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Congresses of Gniezno

16 stycznia 2004 | 01:08 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

*The I Congress of Gniezno* took place in March 1000, when Emperor Otto III, a friend of St. Adalbert before the bishop’s martyr death, arrived at his tomb in Gniezno. The Congress meant Poland’s entry into the group of European countries. The Emperor’s placing a coronet on Bolesław Chrobry’s head and presenting him with the spear of St. Maurice is regarded as the beginning of the independence and sovereignty of the Polish state. At the same time, the event had the character of a Church Synod. The Emperor was accompanied by a group of cardinals headed by a Pope’s envoy. It was then that the establishment the first metropolitan see in the territory of Poland in Gniezno and three subordinate bishops’ sees in Cracow, Wrocław and Kołobrzeg was proclaimed. Thanks to the establishment of the metropolitan see, the Congress was an inauguration of a separate structure of Church administration in the territory of Poland, subordinate only to Rome.

The tradition of convening congresses in Gniezno as major spiritual and political events on a European scale was resumed by the incumbent Metropolitan of Gniezno, Archbishop Henryk Muszyński, a delegate of the Polish Episcopate to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. On his initiative, the *II Congress of Gniezno* took place on 3 June 1997. It marked the millennium anniversary of St. Adalbert’s death and was part of Pope John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Poland. The Holy Father participated in the Congress along with the following seven Presidents of Eastern and Central Europe: of Poland – Aleksander Kwaśniewski, of the Czech Republic – Vaclav Havel, of Germany – Roman Herzog, of Hungary – Arpad Goencz, of Slovakia – Michal Kovacz, of Lithuania – Algirdas Brazauskas, and of Ukraine – Leonid Kuczma.
In the presence of the Presidents and 300,000 pilgrims, the Holy Father uttered a momentous appeal: “If we want the new unity of Europe to last, it has to be a great European Community of Spirit!”
He called St. Adalbert a “symbol of the spiritual unity of Europe”. He stressed that his witness is a lasting one since its chief characteristic was the ability to harmoniously unite diverse cultures.
“No country, even a weak one, should be left outside the communities which are now coming into being in Europe,” called the Holy Father.
*The III Congress of Gniezno* took place on 12 March 2000. On the occasion of the Great Jubilee of Christianity, the local cathedral was first the place of an ecumenical service connected with the confession of sins by three Christian traditions, and then the venue of a meeting of Presidents of five European countries: Lithuania – Valdas Adamkus, Germany – Johannes Rau, Slovakia – Rudolf Schuster, Hungary – Arpad Göncz, and Poland – Aleksander Kwaśniewski.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a papal legate, declared that if the new common European Home is to last, it needs reliable foundations. It is Jesus Christ and His Gospel that are the foundations on which Europe and the world have rested for the last two millennia. “The Church wants to take an active role in the great project of constructing the European community of spirit”, said the Secretary of State of the Holy See. Pointing to the ecumenical character of the meeting, he added that the Catholic Church wants to carry out her great tasks in a “joint effort of other Churches and religious communities”.

Representatives of three Christian traditions in Poland, Cardinal Józef Glemp, Primate of Poland, head of the Polish Orthodox Autocephalous Church, Archbishop Sawa, and a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jan Szarek, expressed apology on behalf of their religious communities for deformities of conscience, indifference to suffering and egoism as well as for pride and humiliating others. The solemnity was attended by young people from the entire Europe. They adopted a resolution which called for taking all necessary measures supporting further integration of countries and nations of Europe.

*The IV Congress of Gniezno* took place on 15-16 March 2003. It was organised by the Forum of Saint Adalbert, a new structure of the Polish laity which gathers diverse movements and associations accepting co-responsibility for the future of Europe. The motto of the Congress, attended by over 600 participants from over 200 cities and towns and representatives of 80 movements, was “Quo vadis, Europe?”
A whole series of meetings with intellectuals, bishops and politicians served as a forum for discussion on whether Poland’s presence in the Union is a threat to, or rather an opportunity for evangelisation. In a unanimously adopted appeal to “Poles, Europeans, authorities of the uniting Europe, Christians and people of good will”, the participants of the meeting stressed that “At the threshold of the new Europe there has to be a place for the values and witness of Christian life.” The participants issued an appeal that the preamble to the future European Constitution should mention the religious heritage of Europe, that legal acts of the united Europe should guarantee respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death, and that the EU resolution calling upon the candidate countries to introduce the right to abortion on demand should be revoked.

In a special telegram to John Paul II, the participants assured that the Church in Poland is not afraid of Europe but undertakes the significant mission of prayer and reflection “on the future countenance of the Old Continent, its identity, culture and spirituality.”

Next year’s V Congress of Gniezno with its motto “The Europe of Spirit” (12-14 March 2004) will be a continuation of this formula of meetings. The Congress, organised on the eve of the accession of 10 new countries into the EU, will have a truly European international, multicultural, and ecumenical character. It will gather around 700 representatives of movements and associations from the East and the West, the two lungs of Europe whose integration is a great wish of John Paul II. The main objective of the Congress is to prove that Europe today is not a “secularised desert”, but rather a place of ever living spiritual inspiration which is perfectly suited to the contemporary moment.
Marcin Przeciszewski

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