Friday, September 14, 2012

"From the Cross of Nowa Huta Began the New Evangelization, the Evangelization of the Second Millennium"

As noted in the post below, use of the term "New Evangelization" by the universal Church can be traced back to the following homily given by Pope John Paul II during his return to his native Poland in 1979 after being elected pope. And it is quite fitting that the New Evangelization should begin where the cross had come to a place without God and triumphed over those who sought to deny God to the people, with the church that was eventually built there constructed upon a foundation containing a stone from the tomb of St. Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus has built His Church.

A “New Evangelization” Has Begun
Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II
Apostolic Pilgrimage to Poland, 9 June 1979
Let us go together, pilgrims, to the Lord's Cross. With it begins a new era in human history. This is the time of grace, the time of salvation. Through the Cross, man has been able to understand the meaning of his own destiny, of his life on earth. He has discovered how much God has loved him. He has discovered, and he continues to discover by the light of faith, how great is his own worth. He has learnt to measure his own dignity by the measure of the Sacrifice that God offered in His Son for man's salvation. . . .

Where the Cross is raised, there is raised the sign that that place has now been reached by the Good News of Man's salvation through Love. Where the cross is raised, there is the sign that evangelization has begun. Once our fathers raised the Cross in various places in the land of Poland as a sign that the Gospel had arrived there, that there had been a beginning of the evangelization, which was to continue without break until today. . . .

The new wooden Cross was raised not far from here at the very time we were celebrating the Millennium. With it, we were given a sign that on the threshold of the new millennium, in these new times, these new conditions of life, the Gospel is again being proclaimed. A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever. The Cross stands high over the revolving world. . . .

From the Cross of Nowa Huta began the new evangelization, the evangelization of the second Millennium. . . . The evangelization of the new millennium must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It must be, as that Council taught, a work shared by bishops, priests, religious and laity, by parents and young people. The parish is not only a place where catechesis is given, it is also the living environment that must actualize it.
That was Pope John Paul II in 1979, but what is the story behind the homily? What is the story of the workers' paradise, Nowa Huta, the town without a need for God?

The Story of Nowa Huta
The struggle to build the Nowa Huta church is one of the great clashes between the Catholic Church and Communists in post-war Poland. Of all the conflicts between the Church and the Communists involving Karol Wojtyla, this story perfectly expresses his growth into political leadership. It is a small gem of a story, multifaceted, twenty years in the making, combining all the elements of Wojtyla's own political journey -- both prosaic and dramatic, gradual and surprising. Ultimately, this story is revealing of the man, the priest, the emerging leader who understood the importance of tenacity and compromise, as well as the great communicator who is exquisitely aware of symbolism and timing.

Nowa Huta was a brand new town built by the Communists in the early 50's outside of Krakow. The town was in Wojtyla's jurisdiction. It was meant to be a workers' paradise, built on Communist principles, a visible rebuke to the "decadent," spiritually besotted Krakow. The regime assumed that the workers, of course, would be atheists, so the town would be built without a church. But the people soon made it clear they did want one. Wojtyla communicated their desire, and the regime opposed it.

The conflict became an intense symbol of the opposition between the Catholic Church and the Communist state. It was a conflict between the workers' world that was supposed to be beyond religion -- and the actual workers singing old Polish hymns that started with the words, "We want God." The Communist Party reluctantly issued a permit in 1958 and then withdrew it in 1962.

Years went by as Karol Wojtyla joined other priests -- especially, Father Gorlaney -- met with authorities,and patiently filed and refiled for building permits. Crosses were put in the designated area and then pulled down at night only to mysteriously reappear weeks later. Meanwhile, Bishop Wojtyla and other priests gave sermons in the open field, winter and summer, under a burning sun, in freezing rain and snow. Year after year, Bishop Wojtyla celebrated Christmas Mass at the site where the church was supposed to be built. Thousands peacefully lined up for communion, but tension was building. Violence did actually erupt when the Communist authorities sent a bulldozer to tear down the cross. Lucjan Motyka was roused out of his hospital bed to be jeered at by the demonstrators. As he reminisced with us one morning about this humiliating moment, Motyka clearly believed that it was Wojtyla's calming words that helped to avert an ugly and potentially dangerous confrontation.

By this time, the Communists, local leaders, residents and Catholic Church had dug in, their positions seemingly intractable. The Communists' compromise to allow a church to be built outside of the town was rejected -- until Karol Wojtyla, the realist, the negotiator, broke the stalemate, persuading everyone that the existence of the church transcended all other considerations. The time to bend was now. In May 1977, a year before he became Pope, almost twenty years after the first request for a permit, Karol Wojtyla consecrated the church at Nowa Huta. What the worshippers were most proud of -- and it was a symbol Karol Wojtyla helped to make into a reality -- is the gigantic crucifixion that hangs over the new altar. It was made out of shrapnel that had been taken from the wounds of Polish soldiers, collected and sent from all over the country to make the sculpture in the new church.
(excerpt from John Paul II and the Fall of Communism, PBS Frontline)

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