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"Before the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa the whole of Poland is praying for the Second Vatican Council"

+ Stefan Wyszynski

On the day of the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council every newspaper, not only the Italian ones, published on the first page - next to the other main articles - a large photo of the event. The choice was to some extent compulsory: St. Peter's Square or the inside of the Basilica ready to receive the Council Fathers. One Roman newspaper - "Il Tempo" - made an exception, publishing a large picture of the Shrine of Czestochowa. It was from this choice that Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski took the idea for a wonderful article published in "L'Osservatore Romano" of 21 October 1962. An article with only one main guiding thread: the Polish's people's link with the Council. In the image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra the Cardinal saw the sign of a mysterious affinity of that extraordinary event to the Church of his land...

"Glancing through an issue of a Rome daily of 11 October inspired the thoughts I am going to expound, to be exact, the first page, devoted to the opening of the Ecumenical Council, whose heading shows the facade of St. Peter's Basilica with Michelangelo's dome and the title: 'From the Eternal City the Word to the World'. At the foot of the same page, to end the article there was a photograph of the Shrine of Czestochowa, before which one could see an immense crowd of 800 thousand pilgrims, young Catholics, men and women, gathered on 26 August, the feast of Our Lady, to show their own adhesion of fidelity to Almighty God, to the Cross of Christ, to his Gospel, his Church and the supreme Pastor, the Pope: and also to pray fervently, united to the Holy Father's intentions, beseeching the graces and inspiration necessary for the Pope and the Council Fathers with its approach.

The coincidence of the printing of these two pictures, namely, of the Vatican hill and of Polish youth in prayer, with the felicitous insight of this newspaper's editorial staff, illustrates perfectly - or so I think - the Polish People's adhesion to the Council. Our eyes look towards Rome, prayers on our lips, while our quiet mind places all its trust in the Head of the Church and the Council Fathers. Not all the Polish Bishops are able to take part in the Council: out of 65 - this is how many they are -, up to now only 17 have arrived in Rome. We cherish a hope that still others will arrive. The regular course of Pastoral care requires that at least one Bishop should remain in each diocese for the entire duration of the Council.

The Polish Bishops ardently desire that the maternal arms of St. Peter's Basilica, in embracing the whole Catholic Church with love, will also welcome Poland. We have, therefore, decided to unite all the Catholic Polish people to the conciliar works. But the distance between Rome and Poland seems too great! Any yet there is a way, an extraordinarily and likewise effective way, of giving the Council an unlimited territoriality, and it is the 'oratio sine intermissione' of the whole Church with the Council intentions. After all the Holy Father himself gave us a wonderful example, when from the very first moment that he announced the Council, he mobilized with great energy the prayer campaign for the Council. He has again placed himself at the head of the faithful, walking in sacred processions along the streets of Rome together with the Roman People, and recently going to Lourdes and Assisi. Places which - may I be allowed to say - are so specially dear to the hearts of us Poles. In Loreto, right at the foot of the Basilica, there is the cemetery of those heroes, our country's sons, who gave their lives to free the city from the occupying army and to defend the blazing dome from bombs. And in Assisi, was held the canonization of St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, the first canonization in the annals of the Church.

On our part, therefore, we have decided to organize in Poland, for the period from 11 October to 8 December, special prayers with the motto: "Conciliar vigils in union with the Our Blessed Lady of Czestochowa". For this purpose all the Bishops have announced a programme of prayer in their respective dioceses so that in every parish, for twenty-four hours without interruption, all the faithful, men and women, adolescents and children, will take turns in praying always for the Holy Father's intentions for the Council.

In conclusion, every day throughout Poland, from 30 to 50 parishes will be praying for twenty-four hours before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, with the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa in the place of honour. The purpose of these prayers is to gather the faithful, priests and religious congregations for common devotions, with the votive Mass of Our Lady of Czestochowa celebrated at midnight. Furthermore, individual social classes are invited to take part in a special holy hour, suited to their circumstances: namely, parents, adolescents, children, the sick and religious. The schedule does not neglect anyone! Each one must bring his or her own contribution to the Holy Father. In the past under the monarchical regime, Poland offered the Holy See 'Peter's Pence'; today we have neither gold nor silver, but we want to contribute with a more precious coin, with prayer. And we are convinced that this gift is the one that is most necessary for the Holy Father and the Council Fathers".

(L'Osservatore Romano, 21 October 1962)