A changing Country

The social situation and ongoing transformations according to Msgr. Gadecki, President of the Bishops' Conference

Despite the economic crisis that is still affecting Europe, the gross domestic product in Poland remains positive, in 2014 it is expected to stabilize at around 3%. In contrast to the old continent, the country has not fallen in a state of recession in recent years; the opening of the market and some reforms have enlivened the productive apparatus, also supported by a good utilization of EU funds. The problems obviously are not lacking: despite certain vivacity in production, unemployment levels remain fairly high (over 10%), with strong regional imbalances. The per capita income is still quite modest and well below the EU average, but especially larger cities register a gradual improvement in the standard of living. However, it is widely believed that the gap between rich and poor is increasing alongside with Poland’s economic growth. Anna Kowalewska for Sir Europe has interviewed Monsignor Stanislaw Gadecki, archbishop of Poznan, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, on the social situation of the country. How does the Polish Church address the social and economic problems? “Percentages, GDP figures and other calculations of economists, sociologists and demographers should not be absolutized. The ‘economic strategy’ of the Church is rather different. From an economic perspective to risk 99% of the capital to save 1% is unreasonable, but with the parable of the lost sheep Jesus shows us that that 1% should not be considered a loss. For the Church satisfaction for the growth of economic indicators is not enough. Our mission is to bend down on every person, supporting those in need. It’s been nearly 70 years since Western Europe began its post-war reconstruction in the aftermath of end of World War II. We have just celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary since the first non-communist government. The destruction caused by the war in Poland has been incomparably more serious than in many other European countries. In the post-war period, the communist regime impeded any private business initiative. For this reason, the rapid changes and their scope in Poland are perceived as very incisive. Many people, however, fail to keep the pace of change and feel lost. The Church must not forget these people”. Which are the poorest brackets in Poland? “The map of poverty in Poland is diversified geographically and socially. Poverty mainly affects the inhabitants of eastern Poland and in the northwestern part of the country. Those are the regions with no industry and where remnants of the communist system still linger on. The major economic difficulties occur in large families without proper social assistance. 23% of the rural population is at risk of poverty, while in the cities the risk rate drops to 11%. 40% of families with three or more children and 25% of single-parent households are on the threshold of poverty. In Poland poverty affects especially those children whose primary needs are unfulfilled, such as proper nutrition, education and leisure”. In this situation how is Caritas’ contribution organized? “Caritas seeks to provide concrete answers to people’s necessities and its work coincides with the poverty and exclusion map. Our purpose is to ensure that we are inspired by the Gospel message of Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan. For example, thanks to Caritas, each year we offer summer holidays to 30 thousand children, other 40 are given school uniforms and older youths receive 3500 scholarships each year. During the year children are hosted in eight after-school centres where they are given hot meals. 100 thousand volunteers in over 40 Caritas diocesan centres throughout the national territory provide daily help to the needy, unemployed, homeless, sick and old people. However, the first step to help the poor whilst overcoming social inequalities is to view the human person in his condition and make a step towards him to ensure that the whole of society becomes a true community”. Do you agree with those economists for whom the most serious problem in Poland is the demographic decrease? “Church mission is to proclaim the Gospel, and among the truths revealed to us by God there are those that regard the dignity of marriage, of the family, of human life that is always a gift of God and not the fruit of some technology, even the more advanced. Low birth rates are the result of a division of procreation (procreation, not ‘reproduction’) from sexuality. For many people sons are a luxury so they decide to ‘obtain’ a child when they want their life to be more pleasant, regardless of marriage. A positive sign comes from the growing number of rich families who decide to accept the gift of numerous offspring”.

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