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Friday, 23 December 2005

Participation of the President of Poland in a Holy Mass and in a ceremony of the handing over of the insignia

On 23 December 2005, the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, and the First Lady attended a solemn Holy Mass for the Homeland and for the President of the Republic of Poland.
The Polish President was welcomed at the door of Warsaw’s St. John’s Cathedral by the Archbishop of Warsaw, Primate of Poland, His Eminence Cardinal Józef Glemp.
After the Holy Mass, the President of the Republic of Poland laid a wreath at the tomb of Gabriel Narutowicz and under plaques dedicated to Stanisław Wojciechowski and Ignacy Mościcki in the cathedral crypt. President Lech Kaczyński also laid a bunch of flowers at the tomb of the late Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
 
After the Holy Mass, the President of the Republic of Poland and the First Lady went to the Royal Castle to attend a ceremony of the handover of the insignia of the Order of the White Eagle and of the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
In accordance with the tradition, and pursuant to the Orders and Decorations Act, the President of the Republic of Poland, by virtue of his election to this office, is made a knight of the Order of the White Eagle and is awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, and becomes the Grand Master of both Orders. In the Main Hall of the Royal Castle, the President of the Republic of Poland was awaited by the members of the Chapters of both Orders as well as by the dames and knights of the Order of the White Eagle. In the Hall, the insignia of the Order of the White Eagle were displayed: the sword used in the course of the knighting ceremony and the collar of the Grand Master, traditionally known as the ‘jewel of the Republic of Poland’.
After the national anthem was performed, the Secretary of the Chapter of the Order of the White Eagle, Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski, acting under Article 23.2 of the Orders and Decorations Act, proclaimed President Lech Kaczyński a Knight of the Order of the White Eagle and the Order’s 13th Grand Master. Following that, the Chancellor of the Order of Polonia Restituta, Prof. Andrzej Ajnenkiel, acting under Article 25.2 of the Orders and Decorations Act, proclaimed the President of the Republic of Poland a Knight of the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Order’s Grand Master.
 
Addressing the audience, the President of the Republic of Poland said, among other things:
 
A moment ago, the insignia of our country’s two highest orders, of the two highest orders of the Republic of Poland, were handed over to me by virtue of Polish law. The history of one of them goes back a long time; it is connected with the Second Republic of Poland. But both are connected with what is the most important thing for all of us, I believe: with an independent, sovereign Polish State; with something that we enjoyed for over eight hundred years; something that we then lost for over one hundred and twenty years, to regain it for two decades, and to lose it once again, though naturally not in the same form, to lose full sovereignty at least, for another fifty years. Sixteen years ago, the Third Republic of Poland came into being, another form of independent Polish statehood. I think I voice the feelings shared by all of you by saying that this is our greatest success. When I say ‘our’ I mean my own generation, as well as the older and the slightly younger generations. This is an inconceivable success. I am often asked whether this day, whether today is the most important day of my life. And I say ‘no’; the most important days were those June and September days of 1989. The victory in the election on 4 June 1989 and the appointment of the first government that was not a government of the Polish People’s Republic, even though formally the state still bore that name, that was a government of an independent Poland, of Solidarity’s Poland. And it is precisely these people who were involved in that struggle in the first few post-war years, who fought during the Second World War, who fought later in various forms throughout the existence of the Polish People’s Republic, it is these people, in the first place, who deserve to be awarded the Orders whose Chapters I was made the head of a moment ago. I may say that my presidency will probably differ slightly from the presidency of my predecessor, Mr. Aleksander Kwaśniewski, my whole great respect for him notwithstanding. Nonetheless, it will differ importantly, for example in respect of the policy of awarding State honours. Here we need to make major changes. Many people present in this room, people of that era and heroes of that era, are knights of the highest Polish decorations today. But there are many who took part in the struggle and were perhaps not among those best known, but nevertheless they fought bravely, served prison sentences, took risks, ruined their careers, and today there is not even a Bronze Cross of Merit on their breasts. It is they that we need to think about; I will certainly think about them. But naturally the Third Republic of Poland also has its post-1989 heroes, heroes who have rendered services to Poland by working for her, by scoring successes, and we have had quite a lot of successes over these 16 years.  I will try to remember about them, too, as the President of the Republic of Poland.
I wish to assure the members of both Chapters of my highest respect and consideration. In distributing this wealth that State honours represent--this wealth which should be important, which should become increasingly important as, hopefully, Poland’s prestige increases, both in the international arena and, much more importantly, in the eyes of her own citizens--I will seek to distribute this wealth justly, according to merits.
 
Following the President’s address, high government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and of the clergy offered him their congratulations.
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