Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, visited the holy places for the first time, and was accompanied by his wife, Agatha Kornhauser-Duda. Follwing the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szylo’s visit in November, the President traveled to the places that are symbolic of Christianity, during his official visit to Israel and Palestine. On the first day, January 17, in addition to a ceremony with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and to the Wailing Wall, the couple reached the Holy Sepulcher.
Fr. Zacheusz Drazek, the guardian of the fraternity of the Holy Sepulcher, welcomed the president, along with all of the representatives of the Christian communities. In front of the Anointing Stone, a kneeler had been prepared to allow them to spend a few moments in prayer. After seeing the tomb of Jesus, the Polish delegation, accompanied by the Vicar of the Custody, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, reached the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and then the Chapel of St. Helena. Fr. Zacheusz Drazek explained that the superior of the Greeks, after seeing Andrzej Duda’s devotion, allowed them to visit rock of Calvary from behind, which is not accessible to everyone. “The wife of the President, as she came down from Calvary, began to cry,” said the guardian of the fraternity. “It was her first time at the Holy Sepulcher and she was very moved. She said that going to the Holy Sepulcher was a miracle and a blessing for them.”
On January 18, President Andrzej Duda was welcomed to Bethlehem. Fr. Artemio Vitores, the guardian of the fraternity of Bethlehem and Br. Ananiasz Jacek Jaskolski led the couple to the Basilica of the Nativity, to the church of St. Catherine and to the Church of the Milk Grotto. On the same day, the Polish President met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and visited some Polish religious communities in Bethlehem. Among these was the House of Peace orphanage, run by the Sisters of St. Elizabeth. Sister Clara said that the meeting was very emotional, “The President took the time to talk to us, to take pictures and his wife was also very kind.” The nun was also present the next day in Jerusalem. “We love our President and we pray for him every day. We wish him all the best,” said Sister Clara waiting in the hall of the Custodial Curia.
On January 19, in fact, the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal, welcomed the Polish President and the First Lady to St. Savior’s monastery in Jerusalem. Andrzej Duda, before the friars, nuns and Polish nationals gathered there for the occasion, thanked the Franciscans for their work, which has was able see first-hand during his visit. Among the Polish delegation present, there was also Poland’s ambassador to Israel and the Consul General of Poland. After going up to the curia rooms, Fr. Narcyz Klimas showed them some objects of interest related to the Custody and Poland. “I showed them the sword of the crusader bishop of Nazareth from 1263 and other documents related to the Curia: papal bulls, chronicles, objects gifted by Polish princes,” explained Fr. Narcyz. “Among the memories related to Poland, there were even letters that the Custos sent to princes, bishops and Polish kings during the period between 1671-1684.” Then there was an exchange of gifts: the Franciscans gave a handmade creche carved out of a wooden trunk and the President gave the friars a painting.