Catholic bishops from Poland and Germany have warned that peace and unity are still needed in Europe, 80 years after the start of World War II.
“Poland was the first victim, suffering six years’ occupation, accompanied by untold cruelty and a destructive policy for exterminating the Polish nation, especially its Jewish population,” said the joint statement, signed by Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki and German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the two bishops’ conference presidents.
“Eighty years after the war’s outbreak, today’s generations in Poland, Germany and Europe are experiencing many changes for the better. But the fruits of reconciliation must be handled responsibly and not superficially imperilled for political interests,” they said.
The statement was published as state and government leaders gathered on 1st September to commemorate the Nazi attack on Poland, which was followed by a Soviet invasion from the east on 17th September under a secret pact between dictators Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
The bishops said the pain of the war, which left 6 million Poles dead, was still felt today, together with damage and suffering inflicted by the subsequent mass deportation of Poles and Germans.
Archbishop Gadecki told a 1st September Mass in Poznan, Poland, that wartime Germany’s plans to reduce the Polish population by 80 per cent had accustomed people to “hitherto unknown levels of contempt for humanity and the violation of rights.”
Picture: Pope Francis prays in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery – the resting place of 7,860 American military members who died in World War II – in Nettuno, Italy, on 2nd November 2017, the feast of All Souls. In a joint appeal marking 80 years since start of World War II, Polish and German bishops warn that Europeans still need to work toward peace and unity. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).