Declaration of the Primates
“As never before, Europe needs a consensus based on Christian and human values, developed in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, free from populism and selfishness,” the Czech, French, Spanish and Polish Primates write in their message, which was read at the end of the Mass celebrated in Gniezno on the 600th anniversary of the institution of the Catholic Primate of Poland on April 23, 2017.
We are publishing their message here:
We, Catholic Primates from the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Poland have met at the tomb of Saint Wojciech—martyr of indivisible Church—, whom John Paul II called patron of the construction of Europe’s unity. The occasion that has brought us together is the 600th anniversary of the ministry of the Catholic Primate of Poland, permanently associated with the Archbishop of Gniezno. Our encounter emphasizes the unity of the Church in Europe and its concern for the present and the future of our continent.
The first Catholic Primate of Poland, Archbishop Mikolaj Trąba, remains the model of a great man who sought inspiration in the Gospel to solve problems related to Europe’s crises in his time. The Polish delegation led by him at the Council of Constance recalled the source of Europe’s identity: God’s love for people, regardless of their religion, nationality, or any other traits. The Catholic Primate of the Millennium, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, said during the celebration of Holy Mass in Cologne’s Cathedral: “Europe must learn again that it is the new Bethlehem for the world, for all peoples and nations.” Europe has offered the world a unique humanism, based on the precepts of Greek thought, Roman law, and divine Revelation. This synthesis is a great achievement that enables Europe to develop and to make a unique contribution to the world’s heritage.
Less than a year later, Pope John Paul II pronounced these famous words in Poland’s capital: “Man cannot be fully understood without Christ. Or rather, man is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is.” Coming to Gniezno in 1997, at the beginning of a subsequent phase of European integration, in the presence of the Presidents of the seven Western and Eastern countries of the continent, he warned that “There will be no European unity until it is based on unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Francis now points out that “Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity.”
This is the message that we, as the Church and Primate of many countries, repeat today to Europe. The history of our continent is full of blind roads, inhuman ideologies, destructive conflicts and wars. Yet, Europe has always been able to return humbly to its roots, by drawing on the Gospel and building a human civilization. We will not overcome the multifaceted crisis if we do not kneel down and draw from sources without which the European values of freedom, justice, human dignity, and respect for the common good are difficult to understand.
Recognizing our shared responsibility, in the wake of the Holy Father Francis, we appeal to the European nations and their leaders for solidarity, which “entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to sympathize with others and with the whole” (Message for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome). As never before, Europe needs a consensus based on Christian and human values, developed in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, free from populism and selfishness.