Polish Catholic communities in New Zealand are among those grieving for Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and their fellow travellers who died in a plane crash on Saturday on their way to commemorate and mourn the deaths of thousands of Polish people who were executed in the Katyn forest in 1940.
Catholic Masses are being held for those affected by the tragedy in New Zealand and for anyone wishing to show their support for the Polish community.
In Wellington there will be a Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Friday 16 April at 12pm.
Her Excellency Mrs Beata Stoczynska, Polish Ambassador to New Zealand, and Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Balvo, will attend the Mass which will be celebrated by Wellington Archbishop John Dew.
Dunedin is also holding a Mass on Friday 16 April at 6pm in St Joseph’s Cathedral. It will be celebrated by Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell.
In Christchurch a Mass will be held on Sunday 18 April at 3pm at Christ the King Parish in Burnside. It will be celebrated by the Polish community chaplain, Fr Andrzej Bernady.
Auckland will hold a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday 19th April at 7.30pm.
Bishop Campbell of Dunedin says that he often feels at a time of such tragedy and trauma that the world is so small.
“We are conscious of being one family, united at this time of grief, he says.
“As President Obama said on hearing of the calamity, we are all Polish. However, united in prayer and solidarity, we know that the strong faith of our Polish brothers and sisters will be effective in healing their nation’s wounded heart.”
Archbishop Dew, president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, says the Masses will provide an opportunity to extend condolences and prayerful sympathy to those affected by the tragedy.
“Faith enables us to hold the vision of all those who have been killed or gone before us in natural death - the vision that they are at home with God,” he says.
“New Zealand has a long association with the people of Poland. In 1944 New Zealand welcomed over 800 Polish children and their caregivers, and gave them the opportunity to start a new life. The late Pope John Paul II honoured New Zealand with two visits: one while still Archbishop of Kracow in 1977 and again as Pope in 1986. We will pray that the former Pope’s fellow Polish citizens now stand with him at the window of the Father’s house and that they have been welcomed and blessed.”