A Polish Catholic bishop celebrated a Mass on Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of EWTN Germany.
Bishop Andrzej Siemieniewski of Legnica, southwestern Poland, presided at the Mass on Nov. 6 in Niepokalanów, the site of a monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1927.
At the start of the Mass, in the Chapel of St. Maximilian, Fr. Mariusz Słowik, the guardian of Niepokalanów, gave Martin Rothweiler, managing director of EWTN Germany, relics of the Polish saint who died at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941.
The relics will be housed in the EWTN chapel in Cologne, western Germany.
The nonprofit EWTN-TV was established in Germany in July 2000. The first German-language productions were aired in Europe in October of that year.
EWTN formally launched the German television channel EWTN katholisches TV on Nov. 6, 2011. More than 21 million households — around 44 million people — can now receive EWTN in German-speaking Europe.
Speaking after the Mass, attended by employees of EWTN Germany and EWTN Poland, Rothweiler said: “We have gathered today in this memorable place to thank God for 20 years of living in Germany, for 20 years of evangelizing ministry throughout German-speaking Europe.”
He noted that the Mass was an initiative of Fr. Piotr Wiśniowski, director of EWTN Poland, and was a special gift from Polish friends to EWTN Germany.
“This touched me and us deeply. The coronavirus pandemic kept us out for a long time. But today we are here,” he commented.
“What a symbolic, profound gesture and what an honor in this special place to receive the relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe, here in Niepokalanów, in the chapel that Fr. Kolbe himself built.”
Bishop Siemieniewski recalled that St. Maximilian helped to turn Niepokalanów monastery — also known as the City of the Immaculate — into a major Catholic publishing center.
He said that the Conventual Franciscan friar was regarded as a patron saint of the Catholic media.
“Why? Because he started from a very small thing, and he developed it by God’s grace to a big thing,” he explained.
“He did not wait for big beginnings. No, he started what was at his hand, a very, very small beginning.”
“And this is what we are expected to do in our life, starting from a small size of grace, praying to God that he develops it into something really blessed and big.”
Rajmund Kolbe was born in Zduńska Wola, central Poland, in 1894. As a child, he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding two crowns. She offered him the crowns -- one of which was white, symbolizing purity, and the other red, indicating martyrdom -- and he accepted them.
Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans in 1910, taking the name Maximilian. While studying in Rome, he helped to found the Militia Immaculatae (Knights of the Immaculata), dedicated to promoting total consecration to Mary.
After returning to Poland following his priestly ordination, Kolbe founded the monthly devotional journal Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculata). He also established the monastery at Niepokalanów, 25 miles west of the capital, Warsaw.
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In the early 1930s, he founded monasteries in Japan and India. He was appointed guardian of Niepokalanów monastery in 1936, founding the station Radio Niepokalanów two years later.
Following the Nazi German occupation of Poland, Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz. At a roll call on July 29, 1941, guards selected 10 men to be starved to death as punishment after a prisoner escaped from the camp. When one of those chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in despair for his wife and children, Kolbe offered to take his place.
The 10 men were held in a bunker where they were deprived of food and water. According to witnesses, Kolbe led the condemned prisoners in prayer and singing hymns. After two weeks, he was the only man still alive. Kolbe was killed by an injection of phenol on Aug. 14, 1941.
He was beatified on Oct. 17, 1971, and canonized on Oct. 10, 1982, being recognized as a martyr of charity. Gajowniczek attended both ceremonies.
Rothweiler said: “In the face of this unspeakable suffering, isn’t it all the more wonderful that today, almost 80 years after a terrible war and inhumane Nazi rule, we are working together to evangelize, in EWTN Poland and in EWTN Germany?”
“We do this because we know that all reconciliation, all salvation, and all healing can only come from Christ.”
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