During a recent interview, Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik reflected on his ad limina visit to Rome last week, explaining that in the midst of a media crossfire, the Pope affirmed his support for the Church in Poland.
"In our talks we told the Holy Father that he has good media coverage in Poland, but the Polish Catholic Church was criticized," Archbishop Budzik told CNA in a Feb. 8 interview, adding that "the Media said the Church is, in comparison to his (Pope Francis) openness, backward and immobile."
Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik is head of the Lublin diocese in Poland, and was present in Rome last week for an “ad limina” visit, in which residential diocesan bishops and certain prelates with territorial jurisdiction meet with the Pope and report on the state of their dioceses or prelature.
During their meetings with the Holy Father, which were largely dedicated to the upcoming canonization of Bl. John Paul II on April 27 and World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016, Archbishop Budzik revealed that they also discussed ongoing media tensions regarding the Catholic Church in Poland.
The Church, he explained, is receiving violent attacks in the media due to abuse cases as well as its staunch rejection of gay “marriage,” despite the press’ widespread support of Pope Francis.
Upon hearing of the situation, Archbishop Budzik recalled that “the Holy Father laughed and reassured us that he is very close to us and that he, of course, does not want to change anything essential in our faith and that he stands firmly by the Church's teaching.”
“He has only changed the language by the way he proclaims or announces,” the archbishop noted, adding that “it is always the Church’s problem: they must stand firmly by the faith and they are not allowed to shake the foundations of the faith.”
However, he observed that the Church also “needs to find a language, that tells the unchanging message of the Gospel in today’s culture, so that the Gospel reaches people and touches their hearts and transforms their lives and open up to God and to people.”
“The Holy Father,” affirmed the archbishop, “understands that very well.”
Of the various meetings they had with the Pope, Archbishop Budzik emphasized that “most important encounter” happened last Thursday, when close to 100 bishops from the Polish Episcopal Conference were present.
“We were divided into five parts and our part, our three ecclesiastical provinces from eastern Poland sat together with the Holy Father on Friday and ate and spoke with him for one hour and a half,” he noted.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” the archbishop continued, observing that “the Holy Father met us more as a brother than as a father, with huge humility, with great simplicity, with great empathy, with great understanding of the church.”
Among the other topics discussed was the positive state of Catholicism in Poland, particularly in the sense that “people are still firmly beside their belief, they visit the churches and receive the sacraments,” Archbishop Budzik stated.
Despite the fact that there are not “sufficient priestly vocations,” the archbishop noted that there are “more than” there were “ten years ago,” and that there are “also signs of activity of the laity.”
Calling to mind how the bishops at one point asked the pontiff if he was tired after speaking to them so often that week, he recalled that Pope Francis said “No, because you bring me good news!”
Today there are roughly “2.5 million people in the Church” who engage in various “movements and groups,” the archbishop explained, which is a strong sign of life, although there are still the “problems that we spoke about” earlier.
Voicing his greatest hope for the fruits of this visit, Archbishop Budzik expressed that the bishops seek to “find out the universal Church’s proper perspective in order to proclaim the Gospel with joy, as the Holy Father Francis has asked us.”