To the 66. The Catholic Church commemorates Maximilian Kolbe on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Nazi henchmen had killed the Franciscan priest in Auschwitz in 1941. Archbishop Ludwig Schick sees in Maximilian Kolbe a "leading figure of reconciliation in Europe."He also commented on the Maximilian Kolbe Year 2011, which was co-proclaimed by Poland.
Archbishop, what does Maximilian Kolbe mean to you personally??
Maximilian Kolbe was a great missionary, he wanted to bring the love of Christ to all people. Therefore he wrote and preached against the inhuman ideology of the Nazis. To this end, he also went to Japan on a mission. He used all means to spread the message of the Gospel. Last but not least, he has reconciled cultures. Poland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia – in all these countries he lived and worked, he wanted to unite the people of all nations into one people of God.
What message should go out from events in memory of the martyr?
I hope for a further impulse for the good neighborliness of Germany and Poland and for the reconciliation of the Central and Eastern European countries, which have a violent past. Maximilian Kolbe can be a "leading figure of reconciliation in Europe" for us.
What obligation arises from his life for the Church?
We must say no to all nationalism, racial hatred and defamation of other people. Concentration camps, Gulag, Holocaust and genocides must never happen again. Maximilian Kolbe also urges the Church to venerate Mary; he was a great Marian devotee. And he can provide an answer to the question of how we can find a way out of the crisis. The Church needs saints. He is a saint for our time. From childhood, he has strived to live according to the Gospel. The love for God and for every neighbor that he had practiced throughout his life, he completed in Auschwitz when he voluntarily went into the hunger bunker for a family man. He is a martyr of charity.
German and Polish bishops shape Kolbe's memory together. What about the reconciliation between Germans and Poles today??
Germans and Poles have done a lot of harm to each other in history, especially between 1939 and 1946. The Polish and German bishops were the first to seek reconciliation after the war. Already in 1965 they exchanged letters. The core sentence was: "We ask for forgiveness and grant forgiveness." Since then, reconciliation between Germany and Poland has been moving forward.
Maximilian Kolbe was the spiritual father of this work. Relations between Germans and Poles are good despite some disturbing fire. But reconciliation is a permanent mission. It must always be sought anew. That is why constant encounters and such celebrations as a Maximilian Kolbe Year are so important.
There has been an aid organization in Germany since 1973 that bears Kolbe's name. What future do you see for this work if, as time goes on, there are no more concentration camp survivors for whom the work has taken care of?
In 2007, the German and Polish Bishops' Conferences jointly established a new foundation, which also bears the name "Maximilian Kolbe". What the Maximilian-Kolbe-Werk has achieved in reconciliation between Germans and Poles is being continued and expanded by the "Maximilian-Kolbe-Stiftung" for all of Central and Eastern Europe.
The keyword reconciliation also comes up again and again when it comes to victims of sexual violence by church members. What else does the Church have to do here??
Reconciliation is a very important word and a central mission. But we must pay more attention to the triad of "confession, repentance/conversion and reconciliation". We are often too fast. We pay too little attention to the importance of repentance and conversion. Reconciliation requires admission of guilt, then must be followed by repentance and reparation, as far as possible. This is what the perpetrators have to do and also the institutions where abuse happened. All involved must do everything to make reconciliation happen. As Christians, we can count on God to give reconciliation in this process.