WARSAW (CWN) - Poland's Parliament approved a long-delayed concordat with the Vatican on Wednesday, following years of delays imposed by the previous ruling party, the ex-Communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD).

      The treaty, first proposed in 1994 and passed by a vote of 274-160, governs the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church in Poland and defines her relationship with the government. The SLD had argued that the concordat gave to much influence to the Church to which about 90 percent of Poles belong. "The concordat does not infringe on the sovereignty of the Polish law in any way. It is unfortunate that it was blocked for the last four years for political reasons," government spokesman Tomasz Tywonek said.

      The treaty states, among other provisions, that sacramental marriages are legally binding and sets up religious education in public schools. The treaty was signed by the former pro-Catholic center-right government just before it lost 1993 elections to the (SLD). Catholic groups saw the opposition as an insult to Polish-born Pope John Paul.

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January 9, 1998 volume 9, no. 7          DAILY CATHOLIC