September 2021 #2 – Church leaders warning on climate change

News in brief.

Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and Patriarch warning on climate change. For the first time, the heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion have jointly issued a statement on the urgency of environmental sustainability and the importance of global cooperation. The statement reads: “We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.” The text of the full statement can be read here.

Pope Francis will meet EU Council President. On Saturday the Pope will meet with EU Council President, Charles Michel. The focus of their discussion is expected to be climate change and the COP26 meeting in November. 

Clashes around inauguration of new Serbian Orthodox head. Police in Montenegro clashed with protestors attempting to stop the inauguration of a new head of the Serbian Orthodox church at the monastery of Cetinje. Cetinje is traditionally the headquarters of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but the Church’s presence has been a source of tension since Montenegro broke from Serbia in 2006.

Church of England bishop resigns to become Catholic. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Goodall, has stepped down to join the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Jonathan had been a “provincial episcopal visitor” who ministered to clergy and parishes who do not accept female priests or bishops.

Spotlight on Krakow.

St Mary’s Basilica (plac Mariacki 5) is both an audible and visual icon of the city of Krakow. The gothic church is a notable feature of the old centre of the city, as is the hourly trumpet call from its tower. Consecrated in 1320, the centuries saw many additions and alterations to the basilica. Much of the interior was remodelled in a baroque style in the eighteenth century, and it was during this phase that the bold polychrome wall ornamentations were painted by Andrzej Radwański. The gothic altarpiece behind the high altar was carved between 1477 and 1489 by German-born sculptor Veit Stoss, and Picasso allegedly called the altarpiece the eighth wonder of the world.  In 1941, during the German occupation, the altarpiece was looted and shipped to the Third Reich. It was eventually recovered in 1946 in Nuremberg Castle, Bavaria.

Wawel Cathedral. Set on a hill in the old part of Krakow, this gothic cathedral is considered Poland’s “mother church” and is the resting place of many of Krakow’s saints, monarchs, and heroes, including Saint Stanislaus, patron saint of Poland. In its heyday, over a hundred priests were engaged in daily prayer at the Cathedral. Like many churches in Poland, the original interior was updated, first in a Renaissance style, then later, baroque elements were added. 

Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II gave his first Mass as a priest here. He was installed here as archbishop in 1964, and later as cardinal in 1967. John Paul II’s great attachment to Wawel Cathedral is clear in his visits to the cathedral during each of his several apostolic visits to Poland. 

Our Lady Queen of Poland Church (Arka Pana) (​​ul. Obrońców Krzyża 1). During the Soviet era, the suburb of Nowa Huta was built as a model proletarian city of the future. No churches were planned for the model city, but the residents of Nowa Huta soon began to agitate for a church to be built. Permission was originally granted in 1956, but this was withdrawn and residents protested, clashing frequently with police.

Eventually in 1967, permission was finally granted for the building of a church, and the first corner stone was laid in 1969 by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who would later become Pope John Paul II. The state, however, would provide no assistance or materials for the church and it was therefore, built entirely by hand by the residents. 
Designed to resemble Noah’s Ark, with a 70-metre mast-shaped cross rising from the centre, the church is a powerful display of modernist architecture, and drew inspiration from Le Crbusier’s chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp. This is also reflected in the church interior, characterised by angular lines and elements. The church is dominated by a large abstract sculpture by Bronisław Chromy of the crucified Christ breaking free from the cross. The tabernacle contains a stone brought back from the moon by the crew of Apollo 11. Also housed in the church is an extraordinary icon known as Our Lady the Armoured which was produced from ten kilogrammes of shrapnel removed from Polish soldiers wounded at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Saint of the week: Robert Bellarmine

Next week the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion celebrate Saint Robert Bellarmine, a seventeenth-century Jesuit, theologian and canon in the Roman Catholic Church. His early career reflected the pan-European nature of Catholic scholarship at the time, and he studied in Padua then Leuven, where he was ordained. One of the reasons Robert Bellarmine entered popular consciousness is for his involvement in Galileo’s trials on the Copernican doctrine of the mobility of the Earth. Robert Bellarmine was in fact intimately involved in several of the political, religious, and sometimes murderous schisms of the seventeenth-century Church, and his writing articulating Catholic doctrine played a significant role in the Catholic Church’s arguments against Protestantism. But he also wrote works dealing with personal faith and salvation. “If you are wise, then, know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. This is your goal: this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart…. . May you consider truly good whatever leads you to your goal and truly evil whatever makes you fall away from it..”

Looking ahead.

The Great Procession of Tournai in Belgium (see last European Churches Chronicle) begins at 19.00 CET on Friday 10 September with prayers at our Lady of Flanders Church. The main procession takes place on Sunday 12 September, beginning at 10.00 CET. During the procession, nearly 1000 people will carry reliquaries and statues venerated in the churches of Tournai and Tournaisis.   

At 16.00 CET 16 September the Lutheran World Federation will host a dialogue event on preventing violence against children. The event includes 90 minutes of interactive dialogue, children’s testimonies, and presentations of LWF child violence prevention initiatives.

Picture credits. Photo of Gothenburg by Jacek Dylag; graphic design by European Churches Chronicle.

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