On the Sunday before October 22, the feast of St. John Paul II, Poland celebrates "Papal Day" in remembrance of his legacy. On this occasion, the Polish bishops wanted to recall the messages of the encyclical "....Veritatis splendor"which set out the rationale behind the Christian morality. The Polish episcopate considers that despite attempts to distort the text, it remains a relevant proposal to promote the authentic pursuit of happiness.
The bishops' text is brief and uses simple language, through which they relate the theses of the encyclical to the problem of misinformation and the proliferation of new rights (e.g. abortion) that do not offer true happiness. The authentic splendor of truth "can only be achieved by showing the true face of the Christian faith". This is why the encyclical remains so important for the Church and the world, because Christ has the power to set man free.
In the letter, the bishops encourage support for the New Millennium Foundation of the Polish Bishops' Conference, which was founded in 2000 to help young people who want to study but have no financial means to do so. The collection of next Sunday, October 16, will be destined to this purpose. "Through the sacrifices made, we have the opportunity to maintain and often restore in the hearts of young people the hope of a better future and the realization of their educational aspirations for the good of the Church and the Homeland," reads the letter.
We publish the full text of the letter in an unofficial translation.
The glow of truth
Pastoral Letter of the Polish Episcopate announcing the national celebration of the XXII Papal Day
Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ!
The ten lepers who met Jesus on the border between Samaria and Galilee experienced the miracle of healing only because of their obedience to the words of Jesus (cf. Lk 17:14). The same happened with the Syrian Naaman, who, following the command of the prophet Elisha, plunged seven times into the Jordan River (cf. 2 Kings 5:14). Thus the Lord God in his Word shows the essence of the act of faith, which is expressed not only in the intellectual knowledge of revealed truth, but above all in the daily choice in its light. "Faith is a decision that leads to (...) trusting and relying on Christ and enables us to live as He did" (VS, 88). .
In just one week, on Sunday, October 16, the 22nd Papal Day, under the theme "The Splendor of Truth," we want to take up again the message that St. Paul transmitted to us. John Paul II included in "Veritatis splendor" . The purpose of the encyclical, whose title is "The Splendor of Truth" in Polish, is to recall the foundations of Christian morality. Despite attempts to distort or undermine it, it is still a good proposal that can bring joy to a person's life.
I. The crisis of the concept of truth
Today, the existence of natural law, written in the human soul, is increasingly questioned. The universality and immutability of its commands are also being undermined. "The dramatic nature of the present situation," says St. John Paul II, "in which basic moral values seem to be disappearing, depends to a great extent on the loss of a sense of sin" (Catechesis of August 25, 1999, Rome). . Indeed, man is tempted to take the place of God and determine for himself what is good and what is evil (cf. Gen 3:4). As a result, truth becomes dependent on the will of the majority, interest groups, circumstances, cultural and fashionable contexts, and individual judgments of individual persons. Then, any behavior is considered the norm of behavior, and all opinions are equal to each other.
As it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood, the boundaries between fact and opinion, advertising and deliberate lying are also blurring. Algorithms are constantly with us when we use the Internet. They select the content searched for and viewed by us to match our interests and expectations as closely as possible. This, however, makes it difficult to confront alternative opinions and, consequently, to arrive at the objective truth. Users of social networks are often not guided by the desire to present themselves authentically, but adapt the prepared materials to the expectations of the recipients. In the pursuit of popularity, they overcome the limits of morality, good taste and privacy. In the media space, we are increasingly confronted with so-called "alternative facts" ("fake news"). The consequence of this is a decline in trust in all published content. In the post-truth era we have not only truth and lies, but also a third category of ambiguous statements, i.e. "lack of truth, exaggeration, coloring of reality".
In a world in which the ability to distinguish truth from lies is disappearing, culture is also closing in on the meaning and value of humanity. Concepts such as love, freedom, community and the very definition of the human person and his or her rights are distorted. We live in times "in which people become objects to be used, just as things are used" (GS, 13). The tragic confirmation of this process is abortion, which is presented as the "right to choose" of spouses, especially women. Children are treated as an obstacle to the development of parents and the family becomes an institution that limits the freedom of its members. These processes strike at the pillars of civilization and challenge the heritage of Christian culture.
II. The inseparable link between truth, goodness and freedom
The renewal of the moral life can only be achieved by showing the true face of the Christian faith, "which is not a collection of theses that require the acceptance and approval of reason. It is, however, the knowledge of Christ" (VS, 88). "This is why the Encyclical on 'the splendor of truth`" ("Veritas splendor") is so important for the Church and the world . Only the splendor of the truth that is Jesus can enlighten the mind so that man can discover the meaning of his life and vocation and distinguish between good and evil.
Following Christ is the foundation of Christian morality. His words, deeds and commandments form the moral rule of the Christian life. However, man cannot follow Christ by himself. It is made possible by openness to the gift of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of his action is a "new heart" (cf. Ez 36:26), which enables man to discover the law of God no longer as a constraint, a burden and a restriction of freedom, but as a good that protects him from the slavery of sin. The truth that Christ brings thus becomes the power that frees man. Thus he discovers that "human freedom and the law of God are not contradictory, but refer to each other" (VS 17). The essence of freedom is expressed in the gift of oneself in the service of God and mankind. Conscious of the height of this task, as well as of the weaknesses of the human condition, the Church offers man the mercy of God, which enables him to overcome his weaknesses.
Harmony between freedom and truth sometimes requires sacrifices and must be paid for. In certain situations, keeping the law of God can be difficult, but it is never impossible. This is confirmed by the Church, which has raised to the glory of the altars numerous saints who, in word and deed, bore witness to moral truth in martyrdom, preferring to die rather than commit sin. Each one of us is also called to bear this witness to the faith, even at the cost of suffering and sacrifice.
III. The formation of consciousness
Conscience is the space for the dialogue of truth and freedom in every human being. This is where practical judgment is made, what is to be done and what is to be avoided. But conscience is not free from the danger of error. Therefore, the key task of pastors and educators, but also of every believer, is to form conscience. Only a well-formed conscience enables a person to adapt to the objective norms of morality and to avoid blind arbitrariness in decision-making (cf. KDK 16). Here a special role is played by "the Church and her Magisterium, which is the teacher of truth and has the duty to proclaim and teach authentically the Truth which is Christ, and at the same time to explain and confirm the principles of the moral order resulting from humanity. nature with seriousness" (VS, 64). The great work of the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It continues to be a point of reference in our daily choices and evaluations of reality.
The Church carries out the mission of the formation of consciences through regular catechesis of children, youth and adults, formation in movements and associations, and increasingly in social networks, in the form of responses to questions asked. Fundamental is the work of confessors and spiritual directors who form people's consciences through conversations, instructions and, above all, through the celebration of the sacraments. At this point, we encourage the personal formation of all believers through the daily practice of prayer, examination of conscience and frequent confession.
IV. "Living Monument" of St. John Paul II
The "Dzieło Nowy Tysiąclecia" Foundation also deals with the formation of young people's consciousness. "The community of Toruń Scholars" - recalls Magdalena, a graduate of the scholarship program - "was for me a support and a spiritual home to which I like to return. The awareness that there are people in the same city who are guided by similar values and are able to understand my doubts or seek answers to troubling questions together was very encouraging during my studies." Every year, the Foundation serves about two thousand talented pupils and students from poor families, villages and small towns all over Poland, and recently also from Ukraine.
Next Sunday, during the collection in churches and public places, we will be able to materially support the "living memorial" of St. John Paul II. Today, in the face of the economic difficulties of many families, we have the opportunity to maintain, and often restore in the hearts of young people, the hope of a better future and the realization of their educational aspirations for the good of the Church and the Homeland, through the sacrifices made. May the support thus given, even in the face of personal difficulties and shortages, be an expression of our solidarity and of the imagination of mercy.
During the fruitful experience of the XXII Pontifical Day, we imparted a pastoral blessing to all.
Signed by: Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops present at the 392nd Plenary Meeting of the Polish Bishops' Conference,
Zakopane, June 6-7, 2022. The letter is to be read on Sunday, October 9, 2022.