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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Monsignor Ralph Brown receives major Polish award
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 On 20 May, in the Polish Embassy in London, Monsignor Ralph Brown was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merits of the Republic of Poland by HE Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, the Polish Ambassador. This high and prestigious award was bestowed on Mgr Brown by the Polish President Jaroslaw Kaczynski in recognition of his unique and long standing contribution to the Polish émigré community in England and in particular his canonical help in all matters related to the Polish Catholic Mission. Mgr Brown is the leading expert in the history of the Polish who settled here after World War Two. In his acceptance speech Mgr Brown said: "Your Excellency, Thank you for your kind words and my gratitude to his Excellency the President of the Polish Republic for this singular award which has been conferred on me this afternoon. I am deeply honored. My own background as a priest has been that of a Canon Lawyer. From the time of my ordination - many years ago -1 have been involved in matters concerning the law of the Church. Consequently, my earliest contact with Poland was not, I am afraid, to do with the Polish nation as such nor with its extraordinary, and yet deeply impressive history, but with the interesting concept of special legal arrangements (both civil and canonical) being made in the Church in this country in connection with the Polish people after the war. It was only little by little that I became aware of the vast numbers of Polish servicemen in this country after the war who were without their own country. "The country they had left to fight in the war was not the country which existed in 1946. They were now exiles; them and their families. It was the special civil provision made for this million or so exiles in this country in 1947 and 1948 which attracted my attention not long after my ordination to the priesthood. "First of all, a special Act of Parliament had been passed in England, in 1947, which provided for something like a quarter of million Polish servicemen and their families, remaining in this country; and parallel to that were the special arrangements made between Cardinal Hlond of Warsaw and Cardinal Griffin of Westminster, to look after the pastoral and religious needs of this principally Catholic body of people. "Those special provisions involved the Polish Catholic Mission catering for their needs, to provide priests to serve the Polish people; and to endeavour to preserve the Polish culture which had depended on the Catholic Church for survival. I quote "In no other country in Europe, not even in Spain or Ireland, has the Catholic faith achieved such a unique position amongst the people as a whole in being so strongly identified with national aspirations". "When we look at the present phenomenon of Polish people in England, we are seeing at least three different situations. We see the Polish people who have happily settled in this country but preserve their own unique culture. We see persons who have come to this country but have not yet decided whether or not to stay; and finally we see (actually a fast diminishing number of) economic migrants who will return to Poland. "In consequence the pastoral and religious work of the Polish Catholic Mission is not at all straightforward as might be imagined. But the cooperation between the Polish and English and Welsh Bishops is now addressing the complications of the present situation. My role in all this has been to use my own canonical expertise to assist with the religious care for the Polish people in this country. From this work I have learned a very great deal: pastorally, historically and culturally about the Polish nation. What work I have done has been immensely rewarding and the Polish people I have come to know well have been wonderful in their reception of my hesitant footsteps in this remarkable vignette of one aspect of the Church in this country. I thank my Polish colleagues, ecclesiastical and lay, for their help; I have been privileged to work with them. I am deeply grateful for this honor from the Polish Republic, and I assure his -Excellency the President, through you, Madam Ambassador, of my work in the future for the Polish community in this country. Thank you." Source: Polish Catholic Chaplaincy
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