Archbishop Stanisław Gadecki has called for “fervent prayer” to end to the migrant crisis at the country’s border with Belarus.
Archbishop Gadecki, who is the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, addressed what he described as “dramatic events” on the roughly 250-mile border between Poland and its eastern neighbour.
The Polish government, the European Union, and NATO have accused Belarus of helping thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to gather at the frontier and seek to enter Poland. The Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, denies the claim.
“On behalf of the Polish bishops’ conference, I strongly condemn the use of human tragedies by the Belarusian side to conduct actions against Poland’s sovereignty,” the archbishop of Poznan, western Poland, said.
“Most of the migrants are victims of ruthless political action and the greed of the smuggling mafia. For this reason, I would like to repeat once again that those who suffer by this evil need our care in solidarity.”
He continued: “At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to the people and institutions that provide such help, with respect for the law in force in Poland”.
Archbishop Gadecki’s statement comes days after he announced that the Church in Poland was to commence a collection this month for migrants facing deteriorating conditions on the country’s border with Belarus.
Poland, a central European country with a population of 38 million, sent troops to secure the border with Belarus after a record number of migrants crossed in the summer.
Polish officials argue that Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country with a population of 9.5 million, is orchestrating the crisis in response to sanctions imposed by the EU after Lukashenko declared victory in a disputed presidential election in August 2020 and cracked down on protesters.
The border crisis has also affected Latvia and Lithuania, both of which are EU member states neighboring Belarus.
Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller said that up to 4,000 migrants were assembling near the country’s eastern frontier.
“We expect that there may be an escalation of this type of action on the Polish border in the near future, which will be of an armed nature,” he said.
Caritas Poland, the country’s largest charitable organisation, has delivered packs to parishes near the border containing foil blankets, water, energy bars, and hand warmers. It is also operating a program called “Tents of Hope” in the border area.
Belarus refuses to readmit the migrants after they attempt to enter Poland, leaving them stranded. Several migrants have died of hypothermia as temperatures drop.
Additionally, the Catholic Church in Belarus also urged prayers for migrants and refugees.