- September 24, 2012
The parish priest to the praying tourists: “Get out of here and go back to Poland!”
A group of tourists from Łęczna were shocked when the parish priest of the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius expelled them from the church. Why? Because they were Poles. The priest snapped his fingers at them, waved his hand and ordered to “go back to Poland”.
‘Polish tourists, gasping for breath in shock after they had been treated by the priest as a bunch of intruders, told me that after visiting the sanctuary they wanted to pray for a moment. When they were praying in concentration, the priest went out of the vestry and said: “Are you from Poland?” They nodded, without interrupting their prayers. The priest, without saying anything, snapped his fingers and drove them out of the church with a clear gesture’, says Jerzy Szpyra, the pilot of the polish tour.
Instead of an apology – “get out of here and go back to Poland”
‘I couldn’t even react, because the tourists immediately left the sanctuary, shocked with priest’s behaviour’, reported Jerzy Szpyra.
‘As always, I guided a group in the church, talking about the history of the temple and the picture of the Divine Mercy, which is located here. Then the group took a few minutes to pray individually. At that time, the church was being prepared for the wedding, but neither guests nor the bride and groom had arrived. Besides, praying does not disturb anyone. While waiting for the group to finish the prayer, I stood at the exit of the church. Suddenly, I heard a loud finger snapping and I saw a priest, waving his hand. I also saw that the tourists get up quickly and left the church in rush. Only outside I heard about what happened to them’, said Jan Górski, the Vilnius guide for Polish tourists.
‘We couldn’t just leave this issue, so I went back to the church’s vestry, where there were some people apart from the priest, including a nun. I drew attention to the behaviour of the priest and I said that, as a clergyman, he cannot cast people out of the temple. The priest, however, didn’t even try to apologize or explain his behaviour. He pointed me to the door and the only thing he said was “go back to Poland”‘, said the pilot of the tourist group. ‘The only thing I could tell him was that he is not a priest for me’.
Jerzy Szpyra said that he didn’t intend to cause another scandal, but ha cannot accept that a group of tourists from Łęczna was expelled from the church. ‘We have to react because the situation will be only getting worse. Especially that it happened to us by a clergyman’, the pilot told us. He said that he immediately informed the Polish embassy in Vilnius about the incident. Since it was Saturday, he spoke only with the emergency consul, who told him to write an official letter. The pilot declared that he will do that in the near future.
Sacred image taken by force form the Polish church
The clergy of the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Vilnius contributed to the anti-Polish sentiment in Lithuania. The small church of Holy Trinity was founded in 1536 by Ulrich Hosius, the manager of the Vilnius mint. On 18 April 2004 the Metropolitan of Vilnius Cardinal Audrys Bačkis decided to move to this temple the first painting of the Divine Mercy, painted in 1934 in accordance with Saint Faustina’s personal instructions.
This picture was in the Polish church of the Holy Spirit. The faithful of the church objected to the decision of the cardinal. They formed a living wall and stood praying day and night in front of the painting, preventing it from being removed from the Polish church. However, on 28 September 2005 the clergy led by the parish priest of the Holy Trinity church, Vaidas Vaišvilas, violently plucked the picture from the altar of the church and took it to the newly established Divine Mercy Sanctuary. During this action, priests trampled people praying at the picture, mostly elderly women. The Polish inscription on the image – “Jesus, I trust in You” – was covered.
After this action the faithful of the church informed the prosecution of stealing the image, and women harmed by priest Vaišvilas reported the matter of assault to the court. The prosecution, however, refused to open the case, and the court saw no violence in “squeezing” people to the church floor.
Elimination of devotions in the Polish language
Father Rector of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, Vaidas Vaišvilas, exposed himself to the faithful of Polish origin when he eliminated morning masses at 9.30 am, during which the Poles gathered at the picture “Jesus, I trust in You”. The priest said that the mass “didn’t work” because too few of the faithful came to worship.
However, according to the faithful, the true reason for priest’s decision is his desire to remove all Polish elements from the sanctuary. Even before the abolition of the morning mass in Polish, priest Vaišvilas began inviting Lithuanian priests to celebrate the masses, even though, despite their best intentions, were not always able to celebrate Mass in Polish and prayed with the faithful in Lithuanian. It was only after the intervention at the Chancellor of the Curia then the faithful managed to restore a Polish priest to celebrate Mass on Sunday afternoon.
According to the guides who guide Polish tours in Vilnius, anti-Polish events happen more and more often. From the usual rudeness in restaurant, when Polish tourists, who dared to ask for a meal for which they were waiting for a very long time, were reminded that “Vilnius is no longer Polish”; up to such drastic situations as the expulsion of Polish tour from the Divine Mercy Sanctuary.
Tłumaczenie Ewelina Zarembska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Zarembska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.