DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     June 11-13, 1999     vol. 10, no. 113


On-going coverage of the Holy Father's marathon trip to his homeland

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Pope Celebrates Mass in City of Nazi Deportations

          SIEDLCE, JUN 10 (ZENIT).- After his day of rest in the forests and lakes of Wigry, John Paul II traveled to the Byelorussian border to celebrate an open-air Mass in the industrial city of Siedlce, an important railroad complex on the Berlin-Moscow line. The Mass was in honor of the martyrs of Podlasia, whom the Pope beatified in Saint Peter's Square three years ago.

          Siedlce is a place of painful memories. During the Second World War, this region witnessed the Nazi deportation of 15,000 Jews to extermination camps, which the Holy Father mentioned at the end of the Mass. Siedlce was also the scene of forced labor camps for Poles and Soviet prisoners of war, many of whom were later killed.

          The martyrs for whom the Pope celebrated Mass were thirteen Greek Catholic laymen, rural workers from Pratulin, shot by the Russians in 1874, while they defended their local Church, even though they were unarmed. Tsarist policy forced the handing over of the Church to the Orthodox.

          The papal Mass was enriched by Eastern ornaments and hymns. 400,000 faithful attended, including several thousands of the Byzantine rite, who arrived from neighboring Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania.

    Role of the Laity

          The testimony of Blessed Wincenty Lewoniuk and his twelve martyred companions gave the Holy Father the opportunity to address a topic of great importance for the Church in Poland. In the aftermath of the decades of communism, the Church needs the active participation of the laity in its mission of evangelization.

          "More than ever now there is a need for a genuine witness of faith, made visible through the life of the lay disciples of Christ, men and women, young and old," he stated. "There is a need for committed witness to fidelity to the Church and responsibility towards the Church, which for twenty centuries has brought salvation to every people and nation, announcing the immutable teaching of the Gospel."

          This commitment is especially necessary for youth, who often feel lost and wounded in the world. "Some fall victim to sects and travesties of religion, or to manipulations of the truth. Others succumb to different forms of slavery. Attitudes of selfishness, injustice and insensitivity to the needs of others become more widespread," noted the Pope.

          Addressing the laity directly, the Pope said: "Through you, Christ wants to act in the power of his Spirit." John Paul II encouraged the work of Catholic Action and of the various ecclesial movements and communities. "It is a new breathing of the Holy Spirit upon our fatherland," he said.

          There were two recurring themes in this homily: "witness" and "fidelity."

          In the afternoon, John Paul II visited Drohiczyn, a city on the Byelorussian border with 90,000 Orthodox faithful and one thousand Protestants. Here he presided over an ecumenical liturgy. Later, he arrived in Warsaw where tomorrow he will spend a particularly intense and important day. The Pontiff will visit Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, and meet with the Polish Parliament in its chambers, which he has never done on previous trips. ZE99061004


      VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II resumed his schedule of public appearances in Poland on Thursday, June 10. The Pontiff appeared happy and slightly sunburned after a day of rest in which he took a boat trip on Lake Wigry, near the Lithuanian border, and dropped in for an impromptu visit on a family of farmers near the monastery where he had spent the night.

      The sixth day of the papal trip saw him in Siedlce, in the region between Warsaw and the border of Belarus. There the Pope spoke to Eastern-rite Catholics of the Polish and Ukrainian Catholic communities. The choice of location for the Pope's address was significant; Siedlce is not far from Brest, the Belarusian town made famous by the Union of Brest, which in 1596 brought many Byzantine Christians back into full communion with the Holy See. The Pope concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Ivan Martyniak, the Ukrainian Catholic metropolitan, and other Eastern Catholic bishops, for a congregation estimated at 500,000.

      During his homily the Holy Father recalled an event that is dear to the memory of the Byzantine Catholics of the region: the beatification of 30 martyrs from nearby Pratulin. Those martyrs were brought before a Russian firing squad in 1874, after they defied an order from the Tsar suppressing the Eastern-rite Catholic churches. Eastern Catholics of the 20th century have shown "the same spirit" of "fidelity to the Church," the Pope said, pointing to the endurance of the Ukrainian Catholic Church despite Communist prohibitions. Today, he continued, the world needs "the same authentic witness of faith" on the part of Christian laymen. The Pontiff said that such witness could "transform the world in the spirit of the Gospel," and have a particularly powerful effect on "the vast and complicated world of politics."

      On Thursday afternoon the Pope traveled to Drohiczyn, closer to the Belarus border, for an ecumenical service with Orthodox, Lutherans, and other Christian religious groups. The Pope's plea was for an "examination of conscience" in which all Christian believers took stock of their own efforts to build up the unity of the Church, and their own responsibility for the divisions within the body of the faithful.


          ROME, 10 (NE) Yesterday, fifth day of his visit to Poland, Pope John Paul II had a quiet day of rest, reflection and prayer. He stayed at the beautiful and peaceful Wigry, a village of approximately 200 persons, near the lake of the same name. The Pope took a walk in the woods and visited the lake in boat, as he had done many times before as a priest.

          "It is not the first time I come to this lake, but it is the first time I come as Pope," said the Pontiff, who will preside today a Mass in Siedcle. Yesterday was the only day that didn't have any public events scheduled.

          The Pontiff stayed at the old Camaldolese monastery of Wigry, which was constructed in the year 1668. The Wigry Lake, 17,5 kms long and 3,5 wide, is the largest of the 41 lakes in the recently instituted Wigierski National Park, and is one of the largest and deepest in Poland.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 11-13, 1999       volume 10, no. 113


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