Fr. Adam Boniecki on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"GIEDROYC AND THE CHURCH"
Fr. Adam Boniecki on Jerzy Giedroyc
When I first walked into "Kultura" in 1972, I knew the house to be small and the crew to number but a few - so I experienced no shocks. Yet I became fascinated in a lasting way. I had come to see with my own eyes something that was unimaginable to a young priest from communist Poland - "Parisian Kultura" ("Parisian" was always added at the time), which was innately impossible, should not have existed but did and thus contested the axiom of Communism's omnipotence. "Kultura", an elitist periodical that was hard to find, was more important and influential in Poland then all other newspapers combined. The books of "Kultura" revealed a world that lived and existed at all times, though I had no idea it did.
The mystery of "Kultura" was its creator - a man, but also a magical name, a myth, an object of admiration and of the vicious attacks of communists - Jerzy Giedroyc
. From that meeting I remember his scarf and his gaze. The former was burgundy with a fine golden design, the latter keen, commanding, and simultaneously (perhaps due to his brows) reflecting pain, concern or something similar. That meeting was almost identical to later encounters. The initial courtesies (greetings, small talk) came down to a minimum and we proceeded as quickly as possible ad medias res. The editor of "Kultura" chiefly saw me as a priest and our discussions focused on the Church. He asked questions, but I felt he did so not to learn something (he might have known everything), but to test me, to see what I was thinking. Then he described the tasks and strategies he envisioned, offered his assessment of the Church in Poland. I suspect he may have prepared for these meetings, for he had so many ready facts and names, so much information. He also may have simply known all that, though his information was at times incorrect. He was critical of people of the Church and perhaps not always fair in his judgments. His criteria were clear: he was less interested in spiritual, pastoral aspects, but appreciated the Church's political importance and somewhat overestimated its ability to influence society. He treated the Church seriously. He gladly met with people of the Church and I remember helping to organize his meeting with a young, promising bishop who is now a cardinal. I remember both were satisfied afterwards.
He neither understood nor accepted everything. A year or two after John Paul II was elected pope, he said to me coldly: "we don't like this pope". Concerned, I strove to convince him that his knowledge of the pope was indirect, drawn from the French press, that he was wrong to have this view. He listened courteously and agreed to accept the Polish language edition of "L'Osservatore Romano", though I don't know if he read it. He continued to criticize the Church in print, though I think this was out of concern for its affairs rather than out of malice. He would often send me clippings requiring reflection and at times a response. He tried occasionally to influence events in the Church. Prior to one of the Pope's pilgrimages to Poland, Giedroyc wrote me requesting that I "do something" to cause Metropolitan Szeptycki to be beatified during the pilgrimage. I explained to no avail that I had no influence on this. His view was that I was a Polish priest in Rome, and so I should have an influence… I made the appropriate inquiries and conveyed what I learned to the Prince. He was not happy. Disappointed and irritated (the Church understands nothing and misses such important opportunities), he also seemed resigned.
I think his attitude to John Paul II evolved in time. He knew that the Pope read "Kultura". The Holy Father once expressed his desire to read a Literary Institute book that was out of print. I immediately conveyed the wish to Maisons-Laffitte, suggesting that the book be sent directly to the Pope. The response was terse: book out of print, none left in storage...
Cool, perceptive, extremely intelligent, mischievous, keeping a distance to issues and people - he was these to me always. The editor of "Kultura" came to the Pallottine church in Paris for an evening service in remembrance of Jerzy Turowicz. That is when I saw him last. It was evident he was old, had trouble walking, required help. But he came... At the end of the service he told me things rarely moved him, but that remembering Turowicz did just that. There were tears in his eyes. That is how I remember him.
|Fr. Adam Boniecki|
© by "Tygodnik Powszechny"
"Tygodnik Powszechny" printed this text in its 24 September2000 issue following the death of Jerzy Giedroyc. It appears onwww.culture.pl - courtesy of the editors and publishers of "TygodnikPowszechny" - in connection with "The Year of Jerzy Giedroyc," celebrated in2006.
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