Interview by Dorota Giebułtowicz (KAI) 

“Ukrainian children from the war will remember two things: who dropped the bombs and who helped. And I think it will bear fruit in later Polish-Ukrainian relations,” says Fr. Marek Blaza, a Jesuit who serves as a triritual priest in the Greek Catholic parish in Warsaw. 

Dorota Giebułtowicz (KAI): You are a Jesuit triritualist priest. What does it mean? 

Fr. Marek Blaza SJ: It means that I received the right to celebrate the sacraments and other liturgical activities in three rites: Byzantine-Ukrainian, Byzantine-Romanian and Latin. Such permission is granted to the Jesuits by the General of the Society of Jesus under a special papal privilege. Usually, however, permission for biritualism is granted to the clergy by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. 

The ability to celebrate the Eastern Rite is very useful today. Do many refugees come to the Greek Catholic liturgy? 

Yes. During Lent, a lot of the faithful came to the liturgy, especially on Palm Sunday, Holy Week and, of course, Easter. A lot of people also went to confession. During the Easter liturgy, which we started in the parish where I serve at 11 p.m., even the priests who concelebrated had to help me confess during the sermon. After Easter, Greek Catholics stop going regularly - it should be remembered that in the East there is no such mentality that you have to go to church every Sunday, people come more out of the need of the heart. 

The Eastern Rite is very popular with many Catholics. Is there an interest among priests in biritualism, in celebrating the liturgy also in another Eastern rite? 

I met some diocesan priests who asked me about it. But bi-ritualism is not accepted because "I like the rite," but for pastoral reasons, in order to serve the faithful. 

And does celebrating the Eastern Rite not require special studies? 

The Byzantine-Ukrainian liturgy can be learned quite quickly. I think that due to the needs related to the influx of refugees from Ukraine, the requirements will not be so high at present. And the faithful will enjoy each new priest. You have to learn Ukrainian, of course. In my experience, and I have been working in the Greek Catholic Church since the diaconate, i.e. since 1999, the most difficult thing for a priest is to stick to one calendar, i.e. one calendar must be the leading one, either Western (Gregorian) or Eastern (Julian). 

And is it possible to adopt the Gregorian calendar and celebrate Easter according to the "old style"? 

It is possible. That's how Romanians and Greeks do. For example, Christmas is December 25, but Easter and Easter-related holidays are celebrated according to the old calendar. 

Are there any other forms of pastoral care for refugees besides the liturgy? 

First of all, it is important to remember that refugees are on different levels of religion. In our Jesuit House at Rakowiecka, we welcomed a group of people from Ukraine. At the beginning, we organized a community meeting with them. It is very important during such a meeting to show that it is done gratuitously. You have to be careful, because when you organize a meeting and a snack, there is a danger that they will think: "aha, they will want something from us in return". And if we start talking about God at such a meeting, then a switch may turn on in them: "the indoctrination begins". This is why it is not advisable. The more so because most of the refugees are Orthodox and they may suspect us of proselytizing. 

Maybe Greek Catholics will decide to adopt the Gregorian calendar? According to research, as many as 65 percent. of the faithful of the Greek Catholic Church in Poland are in favor of changing the calendar. 

I don't think it will change quickly. Although, indeed, the greatest catalyst in changing the calendar may be the war. Perhaps the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, to distinguish itself from the Moscow Patriarchate, will adopt the Gregorian calendar, but I suppose then Easter will also be celebrated according to the Eastern calendar. 

And the Orthodox come to the Greek Catholic Church? 

They come, of course. Mostly those from the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is not recognized by the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, but also comes from the Moscow Patriarchate. They like when everything is in Ukrainian. And these people don't really care what jurisdiction it is. The paradox is that these Orthodox Christians would never go to the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, and here in Poland they come. Even when Orthodox priests in Ukraine asked people who came here to work: "Where in Poland do you go to church?" and when they replied that to Greek Catholic Church, the priests said: "It's good, it's better there than anywhere." It is worth recalling that the last canon in the Code of Canon Law says: Suprema lex salus animarum, that is, "The salvation of souls is the highest law." This is what canon law is for, to serve man, not to put up barriers. 

What are the challenges facing a Greek Catholic priest? 

From a pastoral point of view, the challenges are very great. First, these people bear hate and revenge. And they know that as Christians they shouldn't do that. They come to the church to set it up properly. They feel that this is not the way, that they must not curse, that they must not wish someone to die, that they must be able to pray for the conversion of the aggressor. The second difficult thing: many of these women are mothers, wives of soldiers. Someone always has someone at the Front, and sometimes a son, a husband, dies. Many of these people have experienced the loss of a loved one. This is a challenge for us, priests, because no one has ever taught us that. We never discussed such topics in preparation for the ordination, because it was a time of peace. You just have to learn what to say and how to behave. 

These are very difficult topics. 

Yes, but I would say that the Ukrainians are the Paschal people, they firmly believe that everything will be fine, good will win, darkness will be conquered by the light, because that's what the Gospel says. How will this happen? Let us leave it to God, they say. And that's something we can learn from them. I see more defeatism among Poles. And the evil always works by bullying. 

And how do Ukrainian women handle it all? 

Ukrainian women can take a lot. They are Cossacks, resourceful, they have a lot of inner strength, but also a lot of maternal warmth. All of Ukraine is standing on these women. Women are a great treasure of Ukraine. 

What spiritual fruits can the stay of refugees in Poland bring - both for us and for them? 

Ukrainian children come to us. And the children of the war will remember the most, because it is a trauma for them. And these children from the war will remember two things: who dropped the bombs and who helped. And I think that this will bear fruit in later Polish-Ukrainian relations and will help more in mutual reconciliation than all scientific conferences and settlements. Paradoxically, I think that on the Ukrainian side this settlement of the past will be easier, because the Ukrainians emphasize at every step that they did not expect the Poles to react in this way. And the Poles did not say: we will accept you if you apologize to us for Volhynia. So, I think the current situation will help reconcile each other and heal the wounds.