Catholic bishops in Poland express solidarity with Polish community after Glasgow church fire

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Catholic bishops’ conference Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Catholic bishops’ conference./ episkopat.pl.

Catholic bishops on Thursday expressed solidarity with the Polish community in Scotland after fire destroyed a church with strong connections to Poland.

The Polish bishops sent the message on July 29, the day after flames engulfed St. Simon’s, Partick, in Glasgow.

“We were saddened to learn of the fire at St. Simon’s Church in Glasgow, one of the most important Polish churches in Scotland,” wrote Polish bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki and Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz, the bishops’ delegate for Poles abroad.

“On behalf of the Polish bishops’ conference, we assure you of the spiritual closeness and solidarity of the Church in Poland with the pastors and all the faithful for whom St. Simon’s Church has been for decades a place of worship and at the same time an important center of Polish communities.”

More than 30 firefighters tackled the fire at St. Simon’s in the early hours of July 28.

Photos shared on social media showed flames blazing out of the church’s window and into the street.

According to the parish website, St. Simon’s, which opened in 1858, is the third-oldest Catholic church in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city.

The church, originally called St. Peter’s, was used by Polish soldiers during the Second World War and became known as the Polish Church. The church’s website continues to list weekly Masses in Polish.

Poles are the largest migrant group in Scotland. The Scottish government estimated in 2019 that there were 97,000 Polish nationals living in the country, which has a population of 5.5 million.

A spokesman for Glasgow archdiocese, which is currently awaiting a new leader following the death of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia in January, said on July 28: “The destruction of St. Simon’s church by fire will be a blow to people far beyond the West End of Glasgow.”

“Though small in size, St. Simon’s was well-frequented and was the spiritual home of the Polish community in the west of Scotland who had established a shrine there.”

“It was also a focal point for the local community, and especially the homeless who benefited from a cafe on site which had to be suspended during the pandemic.”

“The church of St. Simon’s is linked to the larger parish of St Peter’s in Partick and worshippers will be accommodated there.”

The spokesman continued: “The cause of the blaze is not immediately apparent, but we will work with the Fire Service as they investigate the site. Structural engineers are on site to advise on the necessary measures to make the remains of the building safe.”

“St Simon’s was a much-loved landmark at Partick Cross and its loss is a heavy blow.”

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Police are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.

Pope Francis is expected to visit Scotland “for a very short time” in November, a spokesperson for the country’s bishops’ conference said earlier this month.

The pope is likely to attend part of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow on Nov. 1-12.

Concluding their message, Gądecki and Lechowicz said: “We trust that this difficult experience, lived in the spirit of faith, will contribute to an even greater consolidation of the Polish community in Glasgow and in the whole of Scotland and will arouse in all believers an even greater sense of responsibility for the Polish cultural and religious heritage beyond the borders of our homeland.”

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