- November 2012 : Religion as a subject for matriculation exam
The Catholic Education Commission expressed concern about the delay of a decision on the possibility of adding religion as a new subject for the matriculation exam. The Catholic Education Commission declared that all the necessary formal requirements needed to establish religion as an additional subject had been fulfilled. This makes the lack of a positive decision from the Ministry of Education all the more incomprehensible.
On 6th November 2012 in Warsaw, a meeting took place between the representatives of the Catholic Education Commission of the Polish Episcopal Conference and the Ministry of Education. This meeting was held in the framework of the planned series of discussions on amendments to the Ordinance of the Ministry of Education of 7 February 2012, which raised concerns about religious education in public schools. Representatives of the Catholic Education Commission stated that previous provisions of Ordinance of 2002 were sufficiently clear and did not raise any doubts. Both parties declared to be prepared to attend another meeting early December.
- August 2012 : The joint message of Patriarch Kirill I and Archbishop Józef Michalik to the nations of Poland and Russia
On 17 August 2012, the “Joint Message to the Nations of Poland and Russia” was signed in the Royal Castle in Warsaw by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill I and the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Józef Michalik. The work on this document took more than 2 years. It basically calls for reconciliation and appeals for a joint contribution to the protection of Christian values in the modern world.
The document also reminds about the Christian cultural heritage of Poland and Russia, which unites both fraternal nations. While calling for mutual forgiveness of the harm caused, it stresses that forgiveness does not mean oblivion, but renunciation of revenge and hatred. It also appeals for efforts to foster dialogue and promote all that makes it possible to rebuild mutual trust and create a peaceful future for Poland and Russia, free from violence and wars. It indicates that lasting reconciliation is the basis for a peaceful future and it can only be built if it rests on the truth of the common past. It is said that after World War II and after the experience of atheism imposed on both nations, it is time for spiritual and physical renewal, which will last only if human renewal is achieved.
Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Michalik stressed that “under the pretext of preserving the principles of secularism or defending freedom, people question the basic moral principles of the Decalogue. Abortion and euthanasia are being promoted, along with same-sex unions purportedly presented as one of the forms of marriage, while a consumptionist lifestyle is being propagated, traditional values rejected and religious symbols removed from the public sphere.” It was pointed out that “falsely understood secularism takes the form of fundamentalism and in reality it is one of the forms of atheism”. The two leaders said that not only terrorism and armed conflicts, but also abortion and euthanasia are mortal sins in modern civilization.
The document expresses respect for the institution of the family, which, as a bond between a man and a woman, is the foundation of every society. It was indicated that the family is “the cradle of life” and “a wholesome place of development”. It also guarantees social stability and is a sign of hope for the whole society.
- June 2012 : Work on the changes in the system of funding the Catholic Church and other religious denominations
On 15th March 2012, during a meeting of the Common Committee of the Representatives of the Government and the Polish Episcopal Conference, as well as the following day during a meeting with representatives of non-Catholic religious denominations, Michał Boni (Minister of Administration and Digitization) presented a proposal aiming at changing the system of the financing of churches and other religious denominations. According to this proposal, the Church Fund (set up in 1950 as a consequence of the nationalization of the majority of secular property belonging to the Catholic Church and other religious denominations) was to be abolished. This abolition was to be accompanied by a solution according to which payers of personal income tax could grant 0,3% of their tax to the Catholic Church or another religious denomination. In search of a compromise, special work groups were created in accordance with the demands of the representatives of the Catholic Church to respect art. 22 para. 2 of the Concordat of 1993.
During the meetings of the work groups both parties declared ready to engage in a dialogue and hoped to be able to reach a common stance leading to the formal adoption of bilateral arrangements by the Council of Ministers and the Polish Episcopal Conference. In accordance with the procedure defined in art. 27 of the Concordat, the Polish Episcopal Conference was entitled by the Holy See. The work conducted thus (as well as the dialogue held in parallel by the Government and representatives of non-Catholic religious denominations) primarily concentrated on the part of tax to be granted by taxpayers (0,3%). The second important issue concerned the length of the interim period (two years), during which the state would be obliged to supplement the amount gained by religious denominations in accordance with the new solutions, in order to keep it at the same level as the amount previously obtained from the Church Fund. The proposals put forward by the Government regarding both issues were considered inadequate by the representatives of the Church. It was especially highlighted that the part of the tax which was to be granted by taxpayers did not correspond to the obligations following from the acreage of arable land confiscated by the state in 1950, and still belonging to the state, nor to the social role of the Church. The proposal concerning 0,3% was also deemed inconsistent with the solutions adopted in other states (Hungary – 1%, Italy – 0,8%, Spain – 0,7%) and the Polish legislation regarding public benefit organizations, which can receive 1% of personal income tax. As far as the two-year interim period is concerned, the representatives of the Church regarded it as decidedly too short.
However, the Government did not appear ready to accept the Church’s arguments. During the meeting of the work groups on 12-13th June 2012, Minister Boni told the representatives of the religious denominations that the Council of Ministers had entitled him only to negotiate the length of the interim period, which could be extended to four years. In reply to that, the representatives of the Church repeatedly argued for the increase in the part of tax to be assigned to churches and other religious denominations. It was agreed that the joint work conducted by experts of the Government and the Catholic Church would not be interrupted. However, in view of the disparity between the positions of both parties it does not seem likely that changes in the system of financing the Catholic Church and other religious denominations will be introduced in the near future.