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Thread: Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops

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    Default Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops

    The Pastoral Letter of the Polish Bishops to their German Brothers was a pastoral letter sent on 18 November 1965 by Polish bishops of the Roman Catholic Church to their German counterparts. It was foremost an invitation to the 1000 Year Anniversary Celebrations of Poland's Christianization in 966. In this invitation letter the bishops asked for cooperation not only with Catholics but with Protestants as well.

    While recalling past and recent historical events, the bishops stretched out their hands in forgiveness and are asking for forgiveness. Here referred to as Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops it is actually only one part of the extensive groundbreaking invitation and letter, where they declared: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness" (for the crimes of World War II).



    Memorial to Bolesław Kominek. The words below the statue ("... we forgive and ask for forgiveness") are a quote from the Letter, which was authored by Kominek.

    t was one of the first attempts at reconciliation after the tragedies of the Second World War, in which Germany invaded Poland; both countries lost millions of people, while millions more, both Poles and Germans, had to flee from their homes or were forcibly resettled. Pope Pius XII had nominated German bishops over Polish dioceses, which was seen as the Holy See's recognition of the German conquest, and generated popular feeling against the Vatican. A much larger part was the invitation and the attempt of the Catholic bishops to gain distance from the Communists who were ruling Poland.



    Among prominent supporters of this letter was Krakow's Archbishop, Karol Wojtyła, who later became Pope John Paul II in 1978.

    The letter was answered by bishops of both of the then-two Germanys together.

    Widely publicised in Poland's churches, the letter drew a strong reaction from the Communist authorities of the People's Republic of Poland. Władysław Gomułka saw it as clearly aimed at countering his propaganda, which saw West Germany as the main external enemy of Poland and continued hostility between Poland and West Germany as one of the main guarantees of social order in the Recovered Territories.

    To counteract the threat of losing control over people's minds, the Communist authorities reacted with anti-German and anti-Catholic hysteria. The Primate of Poland, Stefan Wyszyński, was denied a passport for his trip to Rome and on January 15, 1966, Gomułka announced preparations for state celebrations of the 1000 Years of the Polish State, intended as a countermeasure against the church-sponsored celebrations of 1000 years of the baptism of Poland. Most German linguists were forced to sign a letter of protest; those who refused were fired from their universities. In addition, the authorities twice refused permission for a planned visit of Pope Paul VI to Poland in 1966. The following year the Polish United Workers' Party planned to limit the number of religious schools, which was also seen as a penalty for the Letter of Reconciliation. The anti-church campaign lasted until Gomułka's downfall in 1970.

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    That was from Catholic bishops to Catholic bishops, not to Protestant clergy? Catholic Germans get along better with Catholic Poles. And Polish nationalists like Roman Dmowski even supported the unification of Germany with Austria after 1918 (Dmowski's reasoning was that adding Austria to Bavaria was going to strengthen the position of Catholics in Germany). Protestant Germans didn't get along with Poles as well. But there were exceptions. For example, I have this German friend who is partially Polish (four ethnically Polish great-great-great grandparents from Lodz area). We discuss genetics, ancient DNA, genealogy and stuff via emails. I asked him about the story behind his Catholic Polish ancestors (they mixed with Protestant Germans from Lodz area).

    My Question: "As for Catholic/Protestant issue - how did you get your ethnic Polish ancestors from Łódź area? Weren't they Catholic, while Lodz Germans of Pomeranian origin were Lutheran? So there was Catholic-Protestant intermarriage or were your Lodz Polish ancestors some rare cases of Central Polish Protestants?"

    His Answer: "A very legitimate question. This event actually has a certain background.

    It happened on mother's father's side which was of Lusatian-Bohemian-Silesian origin. There happened a inter-German marriage between a lutheran and a catholic (both Germans from Bohemia). I assume this made the child (daughter) of this couple somewhat less steadfast. She was lutheran but the threshold to marry a catholic, as her father was, was probably notably lowered. This made her marry a Pole. The child of this couple was started to be raised catholic. Usually in Lodz area this would in the long run mean Polonization. But now this Pole died very early. This made the wife and the child 'recover' as Germans in a German social environment and after there were almost just lutheran Germans left in that area (as all catholic Germans got Polonized and absorbed into Poles), they converted resp. re-converted to lutheran confession. This unusual fact made this Polish ancestry come into German people.

    But this story also had the contrary effect for some descendants. One (lutheran) child of this half Polish, half German child married a catholic German from Graudenz / Grudziac (in ca. 1942). After 1945 they stayed some 25 years in Poland and got 'horribly' polonized and not just that: after they eventually came to Germany their children ultimately polonized themselves and their descendants by marrying Poles! The ultimate causalty for this development I actually see in the first mentioned inter-confessional marriage (in 1854). Albeit otherwise the catholic Bohemian Germans would have been completely Polonized in Lodz area instead, like most other catholic Germans."

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