• November 19, 2012
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At St. Jadwiga in Vilnius

At St. Jadwiga in Vilnius it is the first time so many faithful and church dignitaries have gathered. The first time because they have gathered at the solemn ingress of the relics. From now on the queen of Poland and the saint of the Catholic church will have a permanent place in the capital of Lithuania: her own chapel and the altar with a reliquary in a regaining previous splendour the Holy Virgin Mary Church of Franciscan fathers in Piaski. What is interesting, the saint who is described as “a godmother of Lithuania” probably never visited Lithuania and until today she has been perceived in various ways in this country, especially in the circle of conservative historians connecting her person with the dependency of Lithuania on Poland.

It took two years to arrange the chapel, collect funds and erect the altar. For these two years the relics of St. Jadwiga haven’t been closed anywhere but they have gone on pilgrimage to the houses of the faithful. From now on the faithful will come to the Lady of Wawel before her beautiful  reliquary and altar, stylistically adjusted to historic interiors. Adjusted, because historically in this place there was a chapel of Snowy Mother of God (the small copy of this image is in the upper part of the altar). That picture and altar did not survive, similarly to almost the whole furnishings of the one of the oldest churches in Vilnius. Franciscan fathers’ church harassed at the time of the tzar’s partition, and then a communist one, is reviving again, but with no chance to regain its previous appearance. Fathers lovingly take care of every preserved historic element (e.g. the White Madonna with Child) but they are also aware that the interior of the church has to be created again and have a new evangelical message on the 21st century scale.

The consecration of St. Jadwiga’s altar is an important step in the revival of the church, practically only thanks to the support of the faithful. The symbolic moment, falling on the year of the 15th anniversary of the queen Jadwiga’s beatification and the 625th anniversary of the baptism of Lithuania. The anniversary of the baptism was not celebrated in any particular way – the preparation for the 600th anniversary of the baptism of Samogitia in 2013 are in progress. Two years’ preparation for the consecration of St. Jadwiga’s altar – as the originator of the undertaking the father Marek Dettlaff claims – probably resulted in the will of the Saint. Thanks to it she “visited” a lot of families, both Polish ones where she did not have to be introduced and Lithuanian ones where she had to open a lot of hearts and minds. But also particularly in the Lithuanian environment there were a lot of donors supporting the erection of the altar-throne for the queen who led Lithuania to the West European civilizations (let’s remind that in 1386 Jagiełło was not baptised by her but he only renewed his baptism in Latin rite because he was baptised by his mother, the duchess of Tver Julianna as “rab bożyj Jakow”).

The solemn enthronement, because it is probably hard to speak about “introducing” relics two years afterwards, had – as befits St. Jadwiga – the international setting. Only the French were absent  who undoubtedly would admire Angevins’ lilies on the Saint’s dress which is placed in the main altar-niche. The liturgy in Latin, Lithuanian and Polish was presided over by the Vilnius metropolitan the cardinal Audrys Juozas Bačkis, and the mass was concelebrated by: the archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the apostolic nuncio in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the ordinary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vilkviškis the bishop Rimantas Norvila (it was him who in the Episcopal Conference in Lithuania has been in the chair of the Council on the contact with the Polish Episcopal Conference since 2002), the father Jacek Ciupiński, the general assistant form Rome, the Provincial the father Jan Maciejowski, and priests from Poland and Lithuania (the latter came with pilgrims). There was also a Hungarian accent: the Ambassador of Hungary in Lithuania Zoltán Pecze prayed together with the representatives of the Polish diplomacy (St. Jadwiga’s father, Louis I of Hungary, in Hungary is called the Great and included into a pictorial guide of the greatest monarchs of the St. Stephen’s crown).

Formally, St. Jadwiga is not described as the patron saint of Poland (this title is reserved for St. Adalbert and St. Stanislaus, this is why the Vilnius cathedral is dedicated to them), but the patron saint of Poles and the apostle of Lithuania (the patron saint of Lithuania is St. Casimir). Recently more and more frequently St. Jadwiga has been called the patron saint of Middle East Europe to emphasize its importance for the so-called new or younger Europe. The notion of “the patron saint of Poles” going beyond state borders and at the same time – through the person of the Saint – referring to the history of Polish nation makes her a characteristic patron saint of the Polish diaspora and Poles scattered all over the world. This idea inspired the biggest promoter of St. Jadwiga’s cult, the Polish pope Jean Paul II. In nowadays Lithuanian realities, just as ages ago, St. Jadwiga may become the patron saint of Polish and Lithuanian reconciliation and forgiveness, remind of the common greatness and not of scars and traumas. Probably it is not a coincidence that the Saint Queen decided to arrive in Vilnius right in this moment …

However, the cult is expressed by the faithful, not by chapels, altars or even relics. Observing the dedication with which Franciscans have taken up the diffusion of a new cult “on the Vilnius’ ground”, the cult encountering distrust or even disfavour in the hearts of a lot of Lithuanians, one can believe that with the help of the Lady of Wawel everything can be changed on 8th June, when the reminiscence of St. Jadwiga will be celebrated, which will become an another great church holiday for the faithful not only from Vilnius and the Vilnius Region.

Source: http://www.wilnoteka.lt/pl/tresc/u-swietej-jadwigi-w-wilnie

Tłumaczenie Barbara Szydłowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Szydłowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.


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