Analysis

Poland and Abortion

February 16, 2021 Filip Mazurczak 14

While Argentina legalized abortion on demand until fourteen weeks after gestation and the United States has inaugurated what will unquestionably be a very pro-abortion presidency, Poland has bucked the international pro-abortion trend as its Constitutional […]

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News Briefs

World’s largest Gothic altarpiece dazzles again after 6-year restoration project

February 11, 2021 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Feb 11, 2021 / 04:15 am (CNA).- The world’s largest Gothic altarpiece is once again dazzling visitors to a Catholic basilica in Poland following a six-year restoration project.

Scaffolding was cleared away this month after conservators concluded their work on the wooden altarpiece at St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków, which features more than 200 sculpted figures.

The Bavarian sculptor Veit Stoss created the vast altarpiece depicting the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary between 1477 and 1489.

The basilica announced the completion of the restoration works in a Feb. 1 update on its website. There will be an act of thanksgiving on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption.

Msgr. Dariusz Raś, the pastor of St. Mary’s Basilica, said: “This altar is obviously a cultural heritage, but for us believers, above all, it presents the most beautiful moments in Mary’s life, known to us from the Gospel — and not only.” 

“It is also a great work of art related to the late Gothic period, where you can already see elements characteristic of the Renaissance.”

The altarpiece fashioned by Stoss — known in Poland as Wit Stwosz — is classified as a pentaptych. It consists of five parts: a central panel with sculptures, a pair of opening internal wings, and another pair of fixed external wings. When fully opened, it is more than 40 feet high and 35 feet wide.

The central scene shows the Dormition and Assumption of Mary in the presence of the 12 Apostles. Above the central panel, there is a depiction of the coronation of Mary, flanked by St. Stanislaus and St. Adalbert of Prague.

The altar is constructed from three types of wood: oak for the main structure, larch for the background, and linden — a light, soft wood — for the figures.

When the altarpiece is closed, panels showing scenes from the lives of Jesus and Mary are visible.

Raś said that the restoration was completed after six years of “painstaking research and conservation work.”

An expert assessment of the altarpiece in 2011-2012 concluded that it was in a stable condition but at risk of damage. The Inter-Academy Institute of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art made a detailed 3D laser scan in 2013. 

The delicate restoration project began in 2015. During the works, an inscription was discovered on the main group of figures proving that it was completed in 1486, three years earlier than previously thought. 

Workers also found the inscription of a carpenter working at the altar in 1957 during a previous renovation project.

The altarpiece has undergone several restorations in its more than 500-year existence. It has also been caught up in Poland’s turbulent history. 

During the Nazi occupation of Kraków, the altarpiece was taken apart and shipped to Germany. It was discovered in 1946 in the basement of Nuremberg Castle. It was returned to Poland and carefully reassembled at the basilica following major renovation work. 

St. Mary’s Basilica is located in Kraków’s Main Square and is famous for its daily trumpet call, which breaks off abruptly, reputedly in memory of a trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm ahead of an attack on the city.

The basilica is associated with St. John Paul II, who served as a confessor at the church before he was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Kraków.

“We still have a confessional in which Fr. Karol Wojtyła confessed,” said Msgr. Raś. 

“We use it for confession only on holidays. It is carefully respected and marked by us. We call him a silent witness to so many confessions of John Paul II.”

He added: “We invite everyone to St. Mary’s Church as soon as the inconvenience caused by the pandemic is over. It is worth seeing this unique monument in the world.”


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Landmark abortion ruling published in Poland

January 28, 2021 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Jan 28, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Poland’s constitutional court published on Wednesday the rationale for its declaration that abortion for fetal abnormalities is unconstitutional three months after it made the ruling. 

In the highly anticipated ruling on Oct. 22, the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw said that the law introduced in 1993 was incompatible with Poland’s constitution.

But the law did not come into effect until the ruling was published in the country’s Journal of Laws on Jan. 27.

The 154-page ruling said: “In the opinion of the Tribunal, an unborn child is, as a human being — a person who enjoys innate and inalienable dignity, a subject who has the right to life; and the legal system must, according to Article 38 of the Constitution, must guarantee due protection for this central good, without which this subjectivity would be deleted.”

The court’s verdict prompted a wave of demonstrations across Poland. Protesters directed their anger at the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), but also at the Catholic Church, which welcomed the decision. 

Demonstrators disrupted Masses while holding signs supporting abortion, left graffiti on Church property, vandalized statues of St. John Paul II, and chanted slogans at clergy. 

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the country. 

Until now, Polish law permitted abortion only in cases of rape or incest, a risk to the mother’s life, or fetal abnormality. 

Approximately 1,000 legal abortions take place in Poland each year. The majority are carried out in cases where the unborn child has a severe and irreversible disability or a life-threatening incurable disease. 

Polish pro-life campaigners describe the legal provision as “eugenic.” Data from the Ministry of Health shows that in 2019, the likelihood of Down syndrome accounted for 40% of abortions.

Jerzy Kwasniewski, president of the Ordo Iuris Institute, said: “The justification of the judgment strongly emphasizes that, if the mother’s life and health are not endangered, the legal protection of the child’s life is complete. This is a step forward, firmly removing purely eugenic abortion from Polish law.”

Bartłomiej Wróblewski, a Law and Justice MP who was among those who asked the tribunal to review the law, wrote on Twitter: “Selecting people based on illness and disability is unconstitutional. I am glad that the justification for the court’s judgment in this case has been published.”

The constitutional court was asked to examine the law in 2019 by a group of 119 MPs belonging to the Law and Justice party, as well the smaller parties Konfederacja and PSL-Kukiz’15. 

Oct. 22 — the day the court made the ruling — is the feast day of the Polish pope St. John Paul II, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 and galvanized the pro-life movement in Poland and around the world. 


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