Topics of coins

50th Anniversary of the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops

At the end of the Second Vatican Council, on 18 November 1965, Polish bishops addressed a letter of reconciliation to German bishops, with its essence summarized by the words: “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”. Even though written 20 years after the end of World War II and the shifting of the borders of numerous countries (including Poland and Germany), the letter was an act of courage and wisdom since not all the newly demarcated borders had been officially approved by the countries neighbouring on each other.

The message of the Polish bishops’ letter, which was initiated by Cardinal Bolesław Kominek, Archbishop of Wrocław, laid the groundwork for the restoration of political relations between the countries that were the worst affected by the Second World War, and for dialogue to commence.

The letter was most unfavourably received by the then Communist authorities of Poland. However, the normalization process began. Five years later, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany approved the western border of Poland.

The reverse of the coin commemorating the pastoral letter of Polish bishops to their German counterparts features the images of three outstanding figures in the post-war history of the Church and Poland: Cardinal Bolesław Kominek – the originator of the letter, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła – subsequently the Pope, now canonised – who contributed to the fall of the Communist regime, and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the head of the Church in Poland, the Primate of the Millennium. It also bears an inscription in remembrance of the event.

The obversee features a fragment of the letter with the historic words – “we forgive and ask for forgiveness” – in bold type, along with the Polish national emblem and the issue date of the coin.

Rev. Czesław Mazur