Wrocław – Road to Reconciliation
Community life does not preclude conflicts, so it is important for the development
of the common good to practise reconciliation.
In Silesia, individual examples of the application of this principle include:
St Jadwiga from the Middle Ages and the twentieth-century Bishop of Wrocław,
Cardinal Bolesław Kominek.
FR GRZEGORZ SOKOŁOWSKI
At the bridge to Ostrów Tumski stand the monument to St Jadwiga of Silesia
PHOTOS: WITOLD MORAWSKI
Over the centuries, Silesia has passed from hand to hand: Czech, German and Polish. Each change has left behind a mark imprinted on its history – be it the turmoil of war, or the subsequent exiles and resettlement.
St Jadwiga of Silesia – an inspiration for reconciliation
In the Middle Ages, borders did not have such great significance for travellers, when in one monastery or at one university representatives of different parts of Europe would meet, and where despite the constant smaller or larger political conflicts there were some common values.
Such was the time of St Jadwiga, wife of the Silesian duke Henry the Bearded. John Paul II made reference to her in a homily delivered at Wrocław Partynice in 1983, where he likened her to the „brave woman” of the Bible. By the time of the Pope’s homily nearly forty years had elapsed since the war, but fears, feelings of injustice and uncertainty were still present in Poland, seeded by the propaganda of the Communist authorities. In this situation, John Paul II spoke of the idea of understanding and econciliation (Versöhnung) which was important for Europe. It is the application of the Gospel commandment to love. For John Paul II, St Jadwiga of Silesia was a light that illuminated the difficult and painful relationships between the Polish and German peoples.
Reconciliation in community life
Neither people nor communities are perfect. Human frailty means that between the ideal of the common good, which is the purpose of communal life, and the real life of society, there is always a certain difference – if it were not so, we would be able to create a perfect community here on Earth, which would be utopia. However, because it is impossible to build such a community in this world, if we assess the situation realistically, recognizing human imperfection, we must admit that reconciliation is something essential.
Distrust and mutual grievances, excuses and blame, resentment, regret and quarrels form the picture of human coexistence. Social life does not preclude conflicts because they come from individuals or groups with different views, and value systems. Persistent conflict is a problem, which causes the degradation of both sides, and does not contribute to social development. This represents entry into a kind of vicious circle, from which there is no escape. Even when one of the parties is much stronger and seems to be benefiting from the conflict, loss may be felt in another area of its functioning. Reconciliation between the parties to a conflict becomes an important element of social life. The lack of reconciliation only intensifies mutual resentment and hatred, which is a destructive force.
At the bridge to Ostrów Tumski stand the monument to Cardinal Bolesław Kominek
A more effective application of the common good is possible when reconciliation between all members of a community is achieved. It is therefore appropriate to emphasise reconciliation as a social principle. The implementation of other principles is also not possible without reconciliation. How can we speak of solidarity or subsidiarity in a community, when there is conflict and tension between people and social groups? Respect for human dignity is linked to reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the principle of life
In a society for which the common good is an unrealised ideal, reconciliation approximates its realisation – thus becoming a community principle which implies a concrete action. The legitimacy of individuals or groups in society lies in their not being delegitimated despite any evil they have committed or negligence on their part. In contrast, it is the responsibility of the community to offer such people the opportunity to fully rejoin the community. It does so to strive for a fuller common good. In the light of the principle of reconciliation, failure, abandonment or evil does not exclude individuals or social groups from pursuing the common good. The principle of reconciliation is essential in the proper arrangement of relationships on all levels of the human community, starting with the family, through smaller or larger communities in the state, and ending with humanity as a whole.
Catholic doctrine perceives social life realistically and rejects utopian visions of an ideal society created by sinful people, so the principle of reconciliation becomes a lasting element of social life. Social love and solidarity – in order to be realised – must also be reconciled. For the existence of a balance in society, in order to eliminate what Pope Francis terms the „culture of rejection”, this principle is necessary.
Wrocław – City of Reconciliation
On the bridge leading to Ostrów Tumski in Wrocław stands the figure of St Jadwiga of Silesia. In front of her, and erected in 2005, is the monument to the Bishop of Wrocław, Cardinal Boleslaw Kominka, advocate of reconciliation, and at the same time a person who repeatedly made reference St Jadwiga’s life. They both saw a hope for peace in work for reconciliation and in the call for justice between people, and also different peoples.
When Cardinal Kominek was accused of talking too much about forgiveness and reconciliation, he countered that there was no such gospel that could be fought against with hatred. He believed that reconciliation was a prerequisite for the future coexistence of the peoples of Europe.
Although the idea of reconciliation for Cardinal Kominek grew from the basis of the Gospel, the idea is universal, and applies to all social groups regardless of faith, culture, or customs.