At the Mass celebrating the centenary of Polish Independence at Westminster Cathedral on 10th November, Cardinal Vincent was awarded the medal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland.
Following the greetings at the end of Mass, including one from the Cardinal, Senator Anna Maria Anders, daughter of General Władysław Anders, also addressed the congregation, speaking of her pride in her father’s contribution to Polish national life, both during and after the Second World War, when he was a prominent member of the Polish government-in-exile.
She then paid tribute to Cardinal Vincent and the warm welcome he has always extended to the Polish Catholic community, making them feel at home in the Church and especially at Westminster Cathedral. On behalf of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, she presented him with the Senate medal in recognition and gratitude for watching over the Polish Catholic community in the UK over the years.
An example of this care and encouragement was evident in the Cardinal’s words following the Smoleńsk tragedy, when a Polish Air Force plane carrying leading members of Polish government, military, clergy and relatives of the victims of the Katyn massacre, crashed near the city of Smoleńsk in 2010.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak recalled precisely this response during his homily: ‘At the dramatic moment in our more recent history when, after the Smoleńsk tragedy, we met in prayer here, in Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, present also with us today, referring to our national anthem, told us: “Poland is not lost for as long as you live. You really live, you do. Poland is truly not lost.” Those words comforted us then and gave us hope and strength.’
The Cardinal’s warm feelings were expressed in his greeting to the congregation at the end of the Mass of Independence when he said: ‘Today is a marvellous occasion and one which illustrates the deep faith at the heart of the people of Poland and their culture. I thank God for that gift and pray that it may be strengthened and purified by all the tests and challenges we face today.
‘May God bless Poland. May the Polish people always be welcomed here in this country, and thanked, too, for the contribution you make to our society and to our Catholic life.’
Photo: Ryszard Szydlo