The Polish Catholic Mission
The remainder of the priests come from various dioceses in Poland. Its spiritual care is also supported by nine nuns. Mass is held in around 300 churches and chapels. During the school year 2006/2007 around 5000 children used the catechism. The pastors also concern themselves with a variety of movements, groups and formations. In addition the missions also have family and legal advice centres. The mission also organises annual “Polish pilgrimages“ to German places of pilgrimage like Neviges, Kevelaer, Altötting, Beuron an der Donau, Maria Eich, Hannover and Mannheim. The headquarters of the mission are in Hannover and its rector is Pastor Prelate Stanisław Budyń.
At the end of the Second World War there were thousands of Poles in Germany in need of spiritual care in their own language. On 5th June 1945 Pope Pius XII decreed that the then military bishop Józef Gawlina be made the “Ordinarius” for Poles in Germany and Austria. But this only applied to Poles who had arrived in Germany after 1st September 1939 (prisoners in concentration camps and work camps, forced labourers, and soldiers in guard companies). Spiritual care was not intended to be given to the so-called “old emigration” who had stayed within traditional regional German church structures. Bishop Gawlina began by setting up basic organisations. He founded a bishop’s curia in Freimann near Munich, which later moved to Frankfurt am Main. But it was not long before his area of jurisdiction was reduced and after that he was only responsible for the three allied occupation areas, later the Federal Republic of Germany. The reason for this was the rapid repatriation of Poles from the Soviet occupation area and, in 1955, the return to independence of Austria which was thereby excluded from his area of jurisdiction.
After the death of Bishop Gawlina in 1964 the Vatican appointed the then General Priest und Prelate Edward Lubowiecki to the post of Canonical Inspector of the Polish population in Germany. This meant that he possessed the comprehensive powers of a Diocesan Commissioner directly responsible to the Vatican. After his death in 1975 pastoral care for Polish citizens in Germany was reorganised in agreement with the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. The Bishop’s curia was abolished and pastoral care for Poles was put under German church jurisdiction. The Polish Catholic mission replaced the curia in Germany. Its first rector was Pastor Prelate Stefan Leciejewski.
The legal basis for the activities of the mission in Germany are laid down in various church documents. 1. The Codex Iuris Canonici, 2. the instructions on pastoral care for emigrants, published in 1968, and 3. pastoral and legal guidelines for the spiritual care of foreigners, published in 1986.
At the moment the Polish Catholic mission consists of 65 missions in five deaneries. Around 100 priests are responsible for pastoral care in Germany. Half of them are monks. The remainder come from a variety of dioceses in Poland. Pastoral care is also supported by nine nuns. Mass is held in around 300 churches and chapels. Around 5000 children used the catechism in the school year 2006/2007. The priests also deal with a number of different movements, groups and formations. In addition the missions contain family and legal advice centres. In 1994 a society entitled “Chrześcijańskie Centrum Krzewienia Kultury, Tradycji i Języka Polskiego w Niemczech e. V.“ (the Chrześcijańskie Centre, for short) was set up, whose members are active in spiritual care centres in Germany. The society aims to promote lessons in Polish and in the culture and traditions of Polish citizens in Germany. There are around 165 Polish teachers in the centre and around 3500 children and young people attend the lessons.
Every year the mission organises “Polish pilgrimages” to German places of pilgrimage like Neviges, Kevelaer, Altötting, Beuron an der Donau, Maria Eich, Hannover and Mannheim).
In 1990 the Polish Catholic mission began to publish a Polish journal entitled “ Nasze Słowo” (“Our Word”) in a print run of 5000: it appeared once a fortnight until 2002 and is now a monthly paper. Its main themes are the family and education. The editors, however, do not avoid dealing with social, legal and political themes and these are expressed in an easily understandable form. The editor-in-chief is Pastor Stanisław Budyń.
The Mission headquarters are in Hannover. Its rector is Pastor Stanisław Budyń.
Krzysztof Ruchniewicz, June 2014