Polish Catholic bishops’ leader: The Church supports those opting for COVID-19 vaccine

Gadeckiimage Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, pictured Jan. 15, 2018./ EpiskopatNews Flickr photostream.

The president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference said on Thursday that the Church supports those who opt to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki issued the statement July 8 as the Polish government seeks to expand its vaccination program ahead of a potential fourth wave of the virus this fall, while a significant number of Poles remain hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 is an important tool for limiting the spread of the infection and is seen by very many people as a hope for the possibility of returning to the normal functioning of societies,” the archbishop of Poznań said.

“For this reason, the Church, in contact with the competent medical and sanitary services, supports the educational and informational social and public initiatives aimed at increasing the awareness of the faithful regarding vaccination.”

“Furthermore, the Church supports all those who make the decision to be vaccinated.”

Poland, a central European country of almost 38 million people, has recorded more than 2.8 million cases of COVID-19 and over 75,000 related deaths as of July 8, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Polls have indicated that Poland has one of the highest levels of vaccine skepticism in Europe. A survey in May by Eurofound, a European Union agency, concluded that almost 40% of Poles were either very unlikely or rather unlikely to take the vaccine when it becomes available.

Around 87% of Poles are baptized Catholics.

Poland’s health minister Adam Niedzielski thanked Gądecki for his intervention.

He expressed gratitude on his Twitter account July 8 for the “very important voice of the Church” on vaccinations, which he said was “so much needed today.”

On July 5, another senior Polish churchman, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, wrote a letter to priests, asking them to encourage their flock to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In his message, Gądecki referred to earlier positive assessments of the vaccines by bioethics experts of the Polish bishops’ conference.

He also cited a note by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the morality of using COVID-19 vaccines that, during research and production, employed cell lines drawn from tissue obtained from aborted babies.

He underlined the doctrinal congregation’s declaration that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation.”

“The decision to vaccinate should take into account the requirements of the common good, but vaccination should be voluntary,” Gądecki commented.

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He also referred to the example of Pope Francis, who has received two doses of the vaccine and also called for vaccines to be shared with the world’s poor.

In conclusion, the archbishop, who is vice-president of the Council of the Conferences of European Bishops (CCEE), said: “Vaccination should not lead to the neglect of other elements important in limiting the spread of SARS-COV-2 infection and the treatment of COVID-19, including hygiene, responsibility in human relations, accessibility to health care services, including effective pharmacotherapy, and the development of basic and clinical research aimed at better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.”

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