eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà

2020

  • May 2020 : Collaboration between Church and State during coronavirus epidemic

Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik (President of the Committee on Faith Science of the Polish Bishops’ Conference) announced a statement on 31st March. It says that, ‘restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly are particularly painful for the faithful, deprived of direct access to the Eucharist and the sacraments of the Church. But we can connect spiritually with Christ the Eucharist through television, radio and Internet transmissions. We can use this difficult time to renew the practice of home and family prayer, for concrete works of mercy, especially towards the elderly and the lonely, especially at risk of epidemics. Daily prayer of the rosary can become for us a school of deep faith combined with sacrificial service to our neighbour, following the example of Mary, help of the faithful.’

Health situation in Poland is less worrying that in other countries (about 21,236 cases identified and 995 people having died of the Coronavirus on May 22nd), which is in relation to the early measures taken by the government. Once again, it seems that Polish-style secularism corresponds to an amicable collaboration between Church and State. In fact, there was no question of prohibiting any celebration in the presence of the faithful. In addition, several masses and services are broadcast every day, particularly on public television, without counting the Internet broadcasts organised by parishes. On March 13, the Polish government declared a state of epidemiological threat. It limited the number of people who could attend religious celebrations to 50 (excluding celebrants). The episcopate then recommended that diocesan bishops widely granted an exemption from participation to mass, especially to the elderly, the sick, the children and their parents, etc. Between March 24 and April 11, only five people were allowed to attend each service. After returning to a 50-person limit between April 12 and 20, services can now be celebrated in the presence of one person per 15 m², and 1 person per 10 m² since May 18th, while, of course, continuing to respect the rules in force in public places, namely wearing a mask (available in pharmacies), social distancing, barrier gestures, etc.

See more : Covid-19 : In Poland, (sacramental) life continues.

Michał Zawiślak
  • Mars 2020 : Coronavirus : new restrictions on public worship

In relation to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections in Poland, on 24 March 2020 the Minister of Health amended the regulation issued four days before in which the state of epidemic on the territory of the Republic of Poland was announced. The amendments consisted in introducing new emergency coronavirus measures, which are to be in force until 11 April 2020.

The new restrictions refer, among other things, to public worship. From 25 March, the number of the participants in a religious ceremony cannot exceed 5 people (excluding persons leading the worship). On the basis of the ministerial regulation of 24 March, the organization of any other gatherings or meetings is not allowed either (except for meetings of closest family members or necessary work-related gatherings). Moreover, any non-essential movement has been banned (the permissible exceptions concern performing work-related activities, fulfilling basic daily needs, fighting the effects of coronavirus as well as performing and participating in worship). Before 24 March, the restrictions established in the regulations of the Minister of Health of 13 and 20 March were in force (introducing, respectively, the state of epidemic emergency and the state of epidemic). On the basis of these regulations, the number of participants of religious ceremonies (and any other gatherings) was limited to maximum 50 people.

In the communiqué published on 24 March 2020, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, as he did it before, asked Polish people to respect the restrictions introduced by the authorities regarding public worship. At the same time, he encouraged the faithful to pray at home, especially while listening to or watching the Holy Mass broadcast by mass media. Several days earlier (on 21 March) the Presidency of the Polish Bishops’ Conference published instructions on “performing liturgical activities in the following weeks”, addressed at the diocesan bishops. In this document, the bishops were requested to issue detailed decisions and instructions referring to the documents of the Holy See published on 19 and 20 March : the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (on Easter celebrations), the decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary (on granting special indulgences to the faithful) and the note of the Apostolic Penitentiary (on the sacrament of reconciliation). At the same time, the bishops were reminded “not to use general absolution in an unlawful way” (however, it was also clearly stated that general absolution can be used when there is imminent danger of death and individual confession is not possible). It was also pointed out that “confession via electronic media (e.g., telephones or instant messaging) is not possible”. Moreover, the bishops were clearly asked to ensure that the number of the faithful participating in religious gatherings complies with the current recommendations issued by public authorities. They were also reminded to prolong the dispensations from the obligation to participate in the Sunday Mass (the dispensations granted previously concerned the period until 29 March).

Piotr Stanisz
  • Mars 2020 : Coronavirus restrictions and public worship

Due to the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, the Minister of Health declared the state of epidemic emergency on the entire territory of the Republic of Poland. The relevant regulation was issued on 13 March 2020 and entered into force on the same day. The scope of permissible restrictions during the state of emergency is regulated by the Act of 5 December 2008 on preventing and fighting human infections and infectious diseases. According to its Article 46, under the state of epidemic emergency it is possible, among other things, to prohibit the organization of assemblies of any kind. Among the solutions introduced pursuant to the Minister’s regulation of 13 March 2020, there are restrictions concerning public worship, including religious services held in churches and other places of worship. They consist in limiting the number of participants of liturgy to maximum 50 people, which corresponds to the prohibition to organize any gatherings of more than 50 people and the limitations on the functioning of restaurants and large shopping centres. Schools and universities had already been closed several days earlier.

The restrictions on public worship have been met with understanding on the part of representatives of churches and other religious organizations. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, on 12 March 2020 the Permanent Council of the Polish Bishops’ Conference issued a document recommending that diocesan bishops grant broad dispensations from the obligation to participate in the Sunday Mass until 29 March. In his address delivered on 14 March, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, explicitly encouraged the faithful to take advantage of the dispensations granted and remain at home, as well as to watch or listen to liturgies broadcast over the mass media. Nevertheless, churches have been left open, and Holy Masses have generally been celebrated according to the regular schedule, although with little or no participation of the faithful.

Only individual diocesan bishops have decided to introduce further restrictions (e.g., the bishop of the Gliwice diocese has cancelled all liturgies involving participation of the faithful).
In the survey conducted by IBRiS – Market and Social Research Institute for the Rzeczpospolita journal, 63.4% of respondents regarded the decisions taken by the Church authorities as adequate for the situation, while 16.9% of those surveyed considered them an insufficient way of protecting the faithful from the epidemic (19.7% of respondents did not have a clear opinion on this question).

Piotr Stanisz

D 26 mai 2020    AMichał Zawiślak APiotr Stanisz

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