Sunday, August 16, 2015

ADSS 1.88 Pacini to Maglione: tensions among German and Polish Catholics in western Poland

ADSS 1.88 Alfredo Pacini, Charge d’Affaires Warsaw, to Luigi Maglione, Sec State.

Reference: Report 250 (AES 4778/39)

Location and date: Warsaw, 10.07.1939.

Summary statement: Reports of troubles in Germany and in Poland on account of the language used during religious services in the minorities regions.  Bishops have made provisions to this effect.  Stanislaw Adamski (Katowice) has banned the use of German in services in the diocese.

Language: Italian


I feel it my duty to inform your Eminence about an order given by Bishop Stanislaw Adamski, Bishop of Katowice, regarding the use of the German language in the churches of his diocese (1).

As it is known, in the Archdiocese of Gniezno and Poznan, in the Diocese of Culma [Chelmno] and even more in that of Katowice, there are German speaking communities for which religious services have always been held in German: sung mass, sermons, lectures, catechism etc: for the administration of sacraments there is even more freedom, as not only in the above mentioned Dioceses, but all over Poland all possible languages are used …

This state of affairs has been in force for a long time, and in Article 23 of the Concordat with Poland (2) in the Diocese of Latin rite any change regarding sermons, supplementary prayers and instructions courses without a special authorisation given by the Latin Rite Bishop’s Conference is prohibited.

Now, while in Poland, as Cardinal Hlond assures me, the Bishops had scrupulously followed this prescription, it seems that in Germany – where the Polish speaking populations had the same privilege – this use has in many cases been abandoned; hence protests and threats of reprisals against the Germans in Poland.

These reprisals recently have become so frequent, from both sides, and have taken on such proportions that there was no respect for persons or things or scared places and the very churches become battlefields.  Then Monsignor Adamski, Bishop of Katowice, in whose diocese more than in others these acts were taking place, published a Pastoral Letter in very stern terms at the end of this May, with the hope of remedying these evil practices.  Bishop Adamski writes that this letter brought peace: but others say that “it had the adverse effect”, so that, on 22 June, in a meeting of deacons of his entire Diocese, he gave the order by word of mouth, to stop all religious ceremonies in the German language, permitting it only when giving the sacraments, in funeral services and in public meetings of German organisations.

The reasons given by Bishop Adamski for this order are the following:

1. The clergy complained of the difficulties they were encountering on account of German language ceremonies.

2. The Protestants and other religious sects, using only the Polish language, were vaunting their patriotism against the Catholics who continued to use the German language.

3. The political and nationalist associations were agitating for the exclusive use of the Polish language: if not appeased they would start trouble even inside the churches, as had already happened in many cases.

Not ever twenty-four hours had elapsed since the measures were applied when a letter reached Bishop Adamski from Cardinal Bertram, Archbishop of Wroclaw (3) asking if it was true that the Katowice Curia intended to abolish the use of the German language in the churches of the diocese.  I do not know what Bishop Adamski replied, I only know that the above-mentioned by a decree dates 27 June suspended all Polish devotions, I his large archdiocese, ordering that, in place of sung Mass with Polish hymns and Polish sermon, a low Mass without hymns be introduced.  The decree mentions the possibility of reverting to Polish ceremonies in more serene times.

The reasons put forward by Cardinal Bertram are more or less the same as those given by Bishop Adamski for the suppression of the German language in Poland.  Bishop Adamski, in a second letter written to me on this subject on 01.07.1939 says that, in consideration of the good results produced by his verbal order, he was going to confirm it in writing directly to the clergy, without, however, publishing it in any newspaper or magazine, not even in the Official Bulletin of the Diocese.

Up to now the Nunciature has not received any protest form the German Minorities: it is believed that protests will come from other quarters, but I have no positive information.

Bishop Adamski, who it seems, has mentioned something about this in previous Episcopal Conferences, write to me that he will present the entire question at the next Conference which will probably be held in September: but in the meantime Cardinal Hlond writes to me that he has received requests for the abolition of German in his parishes in Poznania, Kaszczor, Rawicz, Swiecichoa and Miasteczki: this I believe is also the case in the Diocese of Culma.  But it seems that these Bishops do not let themselves be pushed and manage things with the calm which the case requires.

If there are other developments I shall not fail to inform your Eminence.

(1) Stanislaw Adamski (1875-1967), bishop of Katowice 1930-67.
(2) Concordat with Poland, Article 23: “Any change of language used in the Diocese of Latin rite for sermons, prayers, supplementary prayers and instructions, except those of sacred sciences in seminaries, shall be made only by special authorisation given by the Conference of Bishops of the Latin Rite.”  Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 02.06.1925, p283.

(3) Adolf Bertram (1859-1945), Cardinal Archbishop of Wroclaw (Breslau) 1914-45.

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