John Paul II was an unrelenting human rights advocate

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  • 2018. October 11.

A Polish-Hungarian conference was organised to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła’s election to be the pope. One of the participants of the conference was Michael August Blume, Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary.

At the joint discussion of the Committee of National Remembrance and the Polish Institute of National Remembrance Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister said: John Paul II refused the lies disguised as human rights invented by liberalism such as individuals have the right to define themselves oppositing to human and natural laws. He added: he was the one who recognised a cluster of ideas disguised as progress, the reverence of death, and protected human life from the first moment of conception until the last. He also mentioned that the former pope used to say that a human who was created not only has rights but also obligations to God, to themselves, to their fellow men, to the nation, their country, society and the whole humanity. He predicted all the attacks on the mere existence of Christianity in the decades to come, much like a prophet, and he professed his faith in God, in humans, the family, nation and in a Europe remaining Christian - Zsolt Semjén highlighted. He also pointed out the amount of criticism he received for protecting of the idea of a family during his pastoral visits to the five continents.

Historian Réka Földváryné Kiss, vice person of the Committee of National Remembrance quoted John Lukács, American historian in her greeting speech - What is the significance of a head of a church, a pastor in the shaping of history? The historian’s questions are as follows: Who would have thought that John Paul II’s words (“Do not be afraid”) would have such consequences? Could the Polish solidarity movement have survived without the Polish pope? “After the Hungarian 1956 and the Polish 1968 would any Communist satellite state have dared to throw down the gauntlet at the Soviet Union, if there had not been moral support behind it?” Could the political transformation have taken place if there had been no such historic, charismatic individuals, who did not resort to means of politics but to those of the human soul, faith and credible ways of communication to address society? - the vice person of NEB said.

Jaroslaw Szarek, President of IPN reminded: the Hungarian and Polish people have experienced a number of times in their history that freedom is a priceless treasure which has to be fought for. However, during the years of Communism it was a consolation for both countries to remember how many “troubles they overcame”.

András Veres, diocesan bishop of Győr, president of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference emphasized: in the Eastern part of Europe Karol Wojtyla’s election to be pope was first received with a sense of surprise and later with growing joy. Many saw him as a saviour of the Church, who knew Communism from inside and “could not be deceived with false words”. In the beginning of John Paul II’s service the respect for the Church grew in Communist countries and throughout the world. No wonder that the Communist establishment saw the archbishop of Krakow as one of their greatest enemies, and its leaders did everything to undermine his personal credibility as well as that of the office, even at the price of taking his life  he said. András Veres also said: although he came from a country which could have little contact with the worldwide Church, he was able to think and act in terms of “the whole Church, the whole world” even from the very beginning of his pontificate. He mentioned in connection with the teaching of the pope that John Paul talked about marriage and family more than any other popes. He was mostly criticised for that, but he never hesitated to talk about and defend the teaching of the Church about passing on life and protecting life, that defines family as “an alliance of love between man and woman”. When talking about issues of medicine and bioethics, the pope warned “life has a dignity that doesn’t come from anyone but God”  the president of MKPK added.

Tamás Tóth, General Secretary of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference outlined the situation of the Hungarian Catholic Church between 1945 and 1989. Using historic data to introduce his talk, he said: “On 2 December 1944, i.e. a little while before the end of the war the Hungarian National Independence Front was born, and the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) was part of that”. Later he mentioned that in October 1946 the Hungarian State Police State Protection Department (ÁVO) was established and the State Protection Authority (ÁVH) was also operating from September 1948, during János Kádár's time as Minsiter of the Interior. That organization led by Gábor Péter was the one that resorted to ruthless means when dealing with churches: it was actively involved in the torture of a lot of high priests, priests, monks and József Mindszenty, Prince Primate, Archbishop (1945–1973).

Based on archival research, Attila Viktor Soós, member of NEB talked about the reaction of the Hungarian state party to the election of Pope John Paul II, and he also outlined the proceeding events. “From all the state security bodies under Soviet influence it was Hungarian state security departments that were assigned the task in the 1950s to observe and track the Vatican, and infiltrate its various institutions. In the period examined any communication with the Vatican from the Hungarian party state was determined by a cooperation among the party, the State Office of Church Affairs, the State Protection Department and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs - the historian said in his introduction.ú

Andrzej Dobrzyński (the John Paul II Pontificate’s Centre for Documentation and Research, Rome) talked about how the Second Vatican Council is of crucial importance in understanding the relationship between St. John Paul II and the Communist countries. Igor Hałagida, professor of the University of Gdańsk described the relationship between Eastern churches and St. John Paul, especially with Greek Catholics. The Holy Father used to talk about the Church breathing with two lungs (Eastern and Western), the gestures he made liberated the Greek Catholic Church to operate legally in a period that demanded many martyrs, and he beatified twenty-seven of them. A Greek Catholic intellectual, who returned from the hell of forced labour camps said about the pope: “he understood us like nobody else”.

Andrzej Zwoliński (The Pontifical University of John Paul II, Krakow) described the economic-philosophical background of St John Paul II’s the Encyclicals as a refutation of socialism. The other talks of the conference concerned the political relevance of the great pope. Łukasz Kamiński (University of Wrocław) talked about the pope’s attitude to solidarity; Władysław Bułhak's (IPN) talk was about the cooperation between intelligence services of the Soviet Bloc against the Catholic Church during John Paul II’s pontificate. Michał Skwara (IPN Katowice Department) talked about the assassination attempt on the pope and secret services of Communist states with the title ‘The Bulgarian Lead’. Paweł Skibiński (University of Warsaw, John Paul II Research Centre) was describing the impact of the pope in relation to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The conference was held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the election of St John Paul II. The first part of the conference was held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.