Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, found himself among the nominees for this year’s Totus Awards in the category: Achievements in the field of Christian Culture. It is the most prestigious Catholic award in Poland and is often referred to as the “Catholic Nobel Prize.” This year’s Award Banquet was held on Saturday, the 11th of October, at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
The Totus Awards are given every year during the observance of Papal Days by the Polish Episcopate Foundation, Act of the New Millennium, whose main objective is to recognize the value of the achievements and accomplishments of people and institutions whose actions contribute in an outstanding way to emphasizing human values. Archbishop Gocławski stressed that the Totus Awards – the Catholic Nobel Prizes – play a great role in shaping proper social attitudes, since they demonstrate the importance of the awarded fields.
Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz underlined the meaning of the Polish Pope’s legacy. “I think that what Pope John Paul II accomplished, in general, for Polish-Jewish relations, especially what he achieved for that monumental and important place, which is Auschwitz, during his first pilgrimage, is what associates the affairs of Oświęcim-Auschwitz most closely with his Pontificate. I believe that what was said during his first pilgrimage in 1979, on the grounds of Birkenau, later reverberated throughout his whole Pontificate. The Holy Father was present at this place in his thoughts and his words - added the Archbishop.
Commenting on the nominees, amongst whom was Piotr Cywiński, Archbishop Tadeusz Gocławski remarked that “we do not always take notice of people who sometimes work quietly; however, Mr. Cywiński, through his quiet labor, was revealed to many Polish families, to our society, and therefore it is with gratitude that we accept this recommendation, because it is not just about one man, such as Mr. Cywiński, but it is the way he sees people, how he reacts to human needs and how he organizes everything, which concerns human needs in the vision of John Paul II, who inspires us all.”
In justifying the nomination of the Museum director, Archbishop Gocławski drew attention to the integral activities of Piotr Cywiński within the framework of the Catholic Intellectuals’ Club and his role as the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. This nomination is an extraordinary recognition of his work and accomplishments to date.
Piotr Cywiński has already received Totus special mention awards twice, in another category: the advancement of the teachings of the Holy Father John Paul II. They were awarded to the institutions that he directed—for the first time, in 2006, to the Catholic Intellectuals’ Club, and a year later for the Saint Wojciech Forum, which organizes the Gniezno Conferences.
This year’s award in the category Achievements in the Field of Christian Culture, was received by Prof. Andrzej Szczeklik – professor of medicine, specialist in heart and lung diseases, and head of the Second Department of Internal Diseases at Collegium Medicum of the Jagiellonian University.
Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński
Born in Warsaw in 1972,· PhD. in the humanities, a medieval historian, a graduate of Mark Bloch University in Strasburg, Lublin Catholic University and the Institute of History at the Polish Academy of Sciences.· From 1996-2000 vice-chairman and from 2000, chairman of the Warsaw Catholic Intellectuals’ Club.· Participant in Polish-Jewish and Christian-Jewish dialogue, as well as the Ukrainian-Polish and other dialogues with neighboring countries.· A graduate of International Borderlands School for Leaders of Cultural, Educational and Social Organizations Operating for the Benefit of Multicultural Regions of East-Central Europe.· A member of the Polish Episcopate Group for dialogue with the Greco-Catholic Church in Ukraine.· From 2007, a member the Polish Council of Christians and Jews.· In 2008, he was nominated Ambassador for the International Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
Head of accreditation in 1999 for the visit of John Paul II in Poland and later plenipotentiary of the board of the Polish Information Agency.· In the years 2000-2002, vice-director of the Festival Executive Office of “Europalia 2001 Poland” and then head of the foreign projects department at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute; creator of the Diapozytyw.pl website.
Co-founder and until 2008 the Chairman of the Saint Wojciech Forum, allying Christian movements and societies desiring to work collectively for the sake of Christian input in developing Europe.· Co-organizer of the Gniezno Conferences in March of 2003-2004, in September 2005 and June 2007.· In 2004-2008, vice-chairman (for European affairs) of the International Federation of the Catholic Intellectual Organization Pax Romana.
Member of the International Auschwitz Council and from 2000-2006 its secretary.· Vice-chairman of the International Center for Education on Auschwitz and the Holocaust.· A member of the Gross-Rosen Museum board in Rogożnicy.· Vice-chairman of the Independence Tradition Museum in Łódż.· Member of the board of the Maximilian-Kolbe-Werks Foundation, founded by the German Episcopate Conference.
From September 2006, director of the Auschwitz-Berkenau State Museum in Oświęcim.·
The Award is given the day before Papal Day, by the Polish Episcopate Foundation, Act of the New Millennium to value the accomplishments and effectively promote those people and institutions whose activities contribute in an exceptional manner to articulating human values.
The Awards are presented in four categories:
Advancement of Man, charity work and education;
Achievements in the field of Christian Culture;
The advancement of the teachings of John Paul II;
Media Totus to commemorate Bishop Jan Chrapka, as well as his role in presenting John Paul II and his teachings in the media.
The laureates are chose from among the submitted candidates by specially appointed chapters of the Totus Awards.· These awards are often referred to as Catholic Nobel Prizes and are presented at a gala banquet at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Laureates to date
In the past years in the category of Achievements in the field of Christian Culture, statuettes were handed to: Prof. Jerzy Nowosielski (2000), Maja Komorowski and Fr. Jan Twardowski (2001), Henryk Górecki and Zygmunt Kubiak (2002), Adam Bujak and Andrzej Bujnowski OP (2003), Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski (2004), Marek Piwowski (2005), Marek Skwarnicki (2006), and Prof. Andrzj Zoll (2007).