Polish Churches Plan Major Agreement on Baptism for Year 2000

 — Aug. 15, 199915 aoüt 1999

by Jonathan Luxmoore, Ecumenical News International

[WARSAW] Minority churches in Poland plan to celebrate the new millennium by joining Roman Catholics in a mutual recognition of baptism. The churches are also considering a joint acknowledgment – with the Roman Catholic Church – of “guilt and forgiveness” for past wrongs.

“Many people have warmed to these proposals, recalling our common roots in the Holy Spirit,” Lutheran Bishop Jan Szarek, head of Poland’s Ecumenical Council, told ENI. Poland’s 95,000-member Lutheran church had already accepted the declaration on baptisms, which now awaited similar approval by other minority denominations, he said.

He added that Roman Catholic leaders were now “increasingly open” to other churches. He believed they would also endorse the document on baptisms as confirming what was already established practice.

“As for guilt and forgiveness, we must allow time for this proposal to sink into the Catholic consciousness. But the Pope has already apologized to us,” Bishop Szarek said, referring to apologies by John Paul II to Protestants during visits to the region in the mid-1990s. “What’s needed now is for the local church to follow this up, with a concrete gesture of reconciliation which recognizes historical realities.”

Bishop Szarek also said minority churches had proposed an ecumenical celebration with the Roman Catholic Church during a planned meeting of European heads of state at Gniezno, Poland’s first Christian see, in March 2000.

However, Bishop Szarek also warned that “Protestants see the millennium more skeptically than Catholics, since we believe every day is God’s day, whether it falls in 1999 or 2000, and we see no sense in jubilee years in which all sins are exonerated.”

The Roman Catholic Church – to which the vast majority of Poland’s 39 million inhabitants belong – has since 1974 maintained a joint commission with the Polish Ecumenical Council, grouping the country’s seven main minority denominations, Protestant and Orthodox.

A text of the declaration on baptisms was finalized by the commission on April 12, and is expected to be officially signed by all churches in January 2000 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The chairman of the Roman Catholic Church’s Council on Ecumenism, Bishop Alfons Nossol, said he would “do everything” to ensure the document was approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference during its plenary session in June. However, he stressed that the statement on mutual guilt and forgiveness was “only an idea” and needed further work.

“The validity of baptisms has been under discussion for 20 years, and after this final theological effort our bishops are ready to accept it officially,” Bishop Nossol told ENI. “Meanwhile, the Pope has expressed regret and apologized for the church’s sins and misdeeds, so I think this won’t pose great difficulties either. But the shape and quality of this gesture need to be made more precise.”

“This time, we are determined that these initiatives should filter right down to parish level, through a joint ecumenical letter to all Christians in Poland,” the bishop told ENI. “This must be something authentic and universal, rather than just a decision by church leaders at the top.”

Both inter-church initiatives were announced in Warsaw earlier this month at an ecumenical symposium on “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” attended by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

A representative of Poland’s 570,000-strong Orthodox Church, Michal Klinger, told symposium participants that Orthodox leaders were also planning an ecumenical ceremony with Roman Catholics in Bialystok, in the east of Poland.

He added that they hoped to resurrect the spirit of Poland’s 15th-century “Republic of Nations,” which had been a magnet of “tolerance and hospitality” for Eastern and Western Europe.

Posted: Aug. 15, 1999 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4959
Categories: ENIIn this article: baptism
Transmis : 15 aoüt 1999 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4959
Catégorie : ENIDans cet article : baptism

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