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Showing posts with label Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Show all posts

Monday, October 20, 2014

When the Communists Murdered a Priest

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at The American Spectator.

It was October 19, 1984—30 years ago this week. A gentle, courageous, and genuinely holy priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, age 37, found himself in a ghastly spot that, though it must have horrified him, surely did not surprise him. An unholy trinity of three thugs from communist Poland’s secret police had seized and pummeled him. He was bound and gagged and stuffed into the trunk of their cream-colored Fiat 125 automobile as they roamed the countryside trying to decide where to dispatch him. This kindly priest was no less than the chaplain to the Solidarity movement, the freedom fighters who would ultimately prove fatal to Soviet communism—and not without Popieluszko’s stoic inspiration.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Father Jerzy Popieluszko Beatified in Warsaw

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko

All of the Church joins with the great people of Poland in celebrating today's beatification of one of her greatest national heroes and freedom fighters, Father Jerzy Popieluszko. More than 100,000 people attended an open-air Mass of Beatification, along with Father Popieluszko's mother.

We have written previously about this great modern-day martyr. He is truly a model and a witness to be emulated throughout the Church and the world. We thank God for this alter Christus and pray for his speedy canonization.

Thousands of people gather and pray in front of altar during beatification mass on Plac Pilsudskiego in Warsaw June 6, 2010. Poland's communist-era martyr Father Jerzy Popieluszko moved a step closer to sainthood on Sunday after a beatification mass held in Warsaw by papal delegate Archbishop Angelo Amato. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

Winnipeg Free Press
By Monika Scislowska

Thousands of Poles filled a vast sunbathed square in Warsaw on Sunday for the beatification of Jerzy Popieluszko, a charismatic priest tortured and killed in 1984 by communist Poland's secret police for supporting Lech Walesa's Solidarity freedom movement.

The head of the Vatican's saint-making office, Archbishop Angelo Amato, presided over the Mass at Pilsudski Square that was also celebrated by 120 bishops and 1,600 priests. Popieluszko's 90-year-old mother Marianna, his sister and brothers, were among some 140,000 attending that included Walesa.

Amato read out Pope Benedict XVI's declaration that made Popieluszko blessed for his martyrdom in giving his life to defend good. The crowd applauded when Popieluszko's portrait was unveiled.

The pope, on a visit to Cyprus, said Popieluszko's "zealous service and his martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil."

The two-and-half-hour Mass in Warsaw was followed by a three-hour procession of his remains — referred to as relics — encased in a small silver reliquary, to a new church of God's Providence in southern Warsaw, where they were deposited in a ceremony filled with praying and singing.

Popieluszko's grave remains in the yard of St. Stanislas Church, where he used to give riveting sermons. Since his burial in 1984, it has been visited by many world leaders.

Popieluszko, an outspoken priest, is remembered as one of the historic figures in this predominantly Catholic nation's struggle against communism. His "Masses for the Homeland" during a time of harsh repression under martial law in the 1980s drew crowds as he preached the value of freedom.

"We are very proud of him, he was a very good and brave person," said Wieslawa Nowak, 57, a bookkeeper.

"He preached the truth and was killed for preaching the truth," said Nowak, who travelled from Grajewo, near where Popieluszko was born, to attend the Mass.

On Oct. 19, 1984, three secret police officers kidnapped the 37-year-old priest and his driver.

The priest was beaten, bound, gagged and stuffed in the trunk of an unmarked police car. He escaped when they pulled in at a secluded parking lot, but was captured again, beaten and stuffed in a sack weighed down with stones and thrown into the Vistula River.

His driver, Waldemar Chrostowski, managed to escape and tell about the priest's abduction. Popieluszko's body was found two weeks later.

Popieluszko's murder sparked massive outrage and drew hundreds of thousands of people to his funeral, in a massive show of opposition to the communist regime. The authorities conducted a quick trial and convicted the three abductors and their immediate superior to prison terms of up to 25 years. All of have since been released.

Beatification procedures opened in 1997. Last December, Pope Benedict declared Popieluszko a martyr, opening the road to his beatification.

Beatification is a step toward possible sainthood, which, if sought in an official procedure, should be backed up by proven cases of miracles attributed to the candidate for sainthood.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

KGB Involved In Murder of Solidarity Priest

n describing this blog's focus as faith, freedom, defense of the West and renewal of the culture,
I have wanted to highlight great champions of those causes because they inspire and remind us all of the role we each must play in the defense of free, Judeo-Christian civilization. In this regard, I can think of no greater, bolder, more courageous and self-giving champion than the spiritual advisor to Poland's Solidarity Movement, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who I profiled a year ago on October 19, the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Now, new details of Father Popieluszko's death are coming to light that directly link the Soviet Union to this holy priest's murder in 1984.

From The Telegraph
By Matthew Day

KGB agents, desperate to curb the influence of Poland's Catholic Church, may have had a hand in the murder of a Polish priest at the forefront of opposition to communist rule, investigators in Warsaw have claimed.

Historians from Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the body charged with investigating communist crimes, have found documents that suggest that the Soviet Union was involved in the kidnap, torture and murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko in 1984.

The IPN says new evidence indicated that Father Popieluszko, an unflinching and brazen critic of communist rule in Poland, may have been held at a Soviet military base near Kazun, 30 miles to the north of Warsaw, and murdered a number of days after his abduction.

Professor Jan Zaryn, a historian at the IPN, said that the order to kill the priest may well have come from a Kremlin worried by the growing anti-communist influence of Poland's Catholic Church and its Polish head, Pope John Paul II. By murdering the priest, Moscow may well have wanted to deliver a blunt message to the Church as a way of forcing it to stay out of politics.

The new evidence undermines the official version of events surrounding the death of Father Popieluszko, who had become a leading protagonist of the suppressed Solidarity movement and major thorn in the flesh of the country's socialist regime at the time of his death.

According to the conventional line, Father Popieluszko was abducted on the night of October 19, 1984 by three men from Poland's internal security service, the SB, and, operating under their own initiative, they beat him to death.

Eleven days later the priest's body was pulled from a reservoir to the north-west of Warsaw. An estimated 250,000 Poles, appalled by the murder, attended his funeral in Warsaw a few days later.

Despite suspicions that the order came from high up in the communist hierarchy, until now there has been little evidence to suggest anything other than the official line that the SB agents, who were convicted of the murder in 1985, were responsible for the killing.

But a report in the Polish newspaper Polska, based on the IPN documents, said that the injuries sustained by the priest's body were so severe that they could not have been committed by the SB agents alone.

Professor Zaryn has also alleged that the trial of the agents was an exercise in damage limitation, designed to keep the possible involvement of high ranking politicians, including that of Poland's then leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, secret.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Remembering Father Jerzy Popieluszko on the Anniversary of His Death

On October 19, 1984, a frail, young priest was savagely beaten and drowned by government security agents in the woods of rural Poland. The brutal death of this holy priest, carried out in the dark of night, captured the attention of the world, and his martyrdom is increasingly seen as a sacrifice leading not only to the resurrection of his own country as a free and independent nation of Christian people, but a bloody sacrifice redeeming all enslaved European peoples from the Baltic to the Urals.

Father Jerzy Popieluszko was born in 1947 on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, in the village of Okopy near Suchowola. His parents were farmers, and Popieluszko, like most young Poles, grew up with a profound love for the Church and a mystical love for a country whose history, culture, music and poetry are one with the Church. But it was also a time when the Church’s very existence in Poland was challenged; first with naked terror in the fifties, and then unrelenting administrative pressure in the 1960’s. As a high school student, Popieluszko kept secret his intention to become a priest for fear that the results of his examinations would be altered if his secret were known.

In 1965 Poland was celebrating its 1000 years of Christianity. In response to the festivities, the government pressured priests to form a schismatic National Catholic Church; they banned religious instruction in schools, taxed churches and seminaries, and severely restricted foreign travel for clergy. It was in that year also, that Jerzy Popieluszko entered the seminary. However, as part of the government’s campaign against the Church, he and his entire class were conscripted into the Army. Serving in an indoctrination unit in Bartoszyce, Popieluszko came to know in his own body the evil of a godless state. When it was discovered that he was carrying a Rosary, he was ordered to throw it to the ground and stamp on it. He refused, was badly beaten, and spent a month in a punishment cell. On another occasion he was ordered to remove a medal of Our Lady that he had worn since receiving it as a gift for his First Communion. Again he refused and was ordered to stand in the rain, barefoot, for many hours. These repeated punishments were endured quietly and bravely, but had a long-term effect on his health.

Finally resuming his seminary studies, he was seen as ordinary, frail, and “not spectacular,” but was ordained by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski on May 28, 1972. By 1978 his Army punishments were taking a toll and he collapsed while saying Mass. To assist his recovery, Popieluszko was assigned to a parish attached to a university where he served as chaplain to medical students, and eventually became the chaplain to the nurses and doctors of Warsaw. In this role, Father Popieluszko’s courage again came to the attention of the authorities during a Papal Mass said by John Paul II during his first visit to Poland after becoming Pope. According to Father Peter Groody, “A letter was being taken to the Pope by three young girls during the Offertory procession. The letter was taken from them by the Secret Police. Father Jerzy saw this and jumped a barrier, retrieved the letter and gave it back to the girls.”

When he was transferred to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in May 1978, the students, nurses and doctors moved with him. While serving at that parish, Father Popieluszko was asked to become chaplain to the steel works in Warsaw at about the time of the first Solidarity strikes. Father Jerzy stayed with the workers night and day, heard confessions, offered Mass, and became the spiritual director to Lech Walesa who would ultimately lead the Solidarity Union and serve as President of a free Poland. It was during these years when the “not so spectacular seminary student” found his voice, acquired a new eloquence and charisma, and became the spiritual foundation for a peaceful revolution that would eventually change the world. In uniting himself totally with the persecuted, suffering, faithful people of Poland, Popieluszko united himself with the suffering of Christ that continues through His Mystical Body. His priesthood took on new meaning and he became, as never before, an alter Christus in the eyes of the people he served.

After the imposition of martial law, Father Jerzy began a monthly “Mass for the Fatherland” that was attended by tens of thousands of Poles who packed the seats inside and surrounded the church outside listening to the young priest over loudspeakers. His message echoed that of the great Polish Pope in Rome: “Vanquish evil with good,” he implored. He also made clear that people of faith have a moral duty to resist evil, asking, “Whose side will you take? The side of good or the side of evil? Truth or falsehood? Love or hatred?

Father Popieluszko asked the people “to include God in the difficult and powerful problems of the country” and he rebuked “the abuse of human rights and freedom of conscience."

Like so many of Poland’s great freedom fighters, he compared the sufferings of Poland to those of Christ: “The trial of Jesus goes on forever. It continues through his brothers. Only their names, their faces, their dates, and their birth places change.” Like the Pope he loved, Popieluszko knew that fear lay at the root of his country’s enslavement. He said, “If truth becomes for us a value, worthy of suffering and risk, then we shall overcome fear – the direct reason for our enslavement."

When in May 1983 a student, Grzegorz Przemyk, was brutally murdered by the Security Police, Father Popieluszko spoke boldly about the outrages being carried out against the people of Poland. Referring to the use of water cannons and a raid on a Franciscan Convent, he said “this was too little for Satan. So he went further and committed a crime so terrible that the whole of Warsaw was struck dumb with shock. He cut short an innocent life. In bestial fashion he took away a mother’s only son.” He concluded by saying “This nation is not forced to its knees by any satanic power. This nation has proved that it bends the knee only to God. And for that reason we believe that God will stand up for it.”

For his May 1982 Mass for the Fatherland, Father Popieluszko composed a new Litany to Our Lady of Czestochowa:
Mother of those who place their hope in Solidarity, pray for us.
Mother of those who are deceived, pray for us;
Mother of those who are betrayed, pray for us.
Mother of those who are arrested in the night, pray for us.
Mother of those who are imprisoned, pray for us.
Mother of those who suffer from the cold, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been frightened, pray for us.
Mother of those who were subjected to interrogations, pray for us.
Mother of those innocents who have been condemned, pray for us.
Mother of those who speak the truth, pray for us.
Mother of those who cannot be corrupted, pray for us.
Mother of those who resist, pray for us.
Mother of orphans, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been molested because they wore your image, pray for us.
Mother of those who are forced to sign declarations contrary to their conscience, pray for us.
Mother of mothers who weep, pray for us.
Mother of fathers who have been so deeply saddened, pray for us.
Mother of suffering Poland, pray for us.
Mother of always faithful Poland, pray for us.

We beg you, O mother in whom resides the hope of millions of people, grant us to live in liberty and in truth, in fidelity to you and to your son. Amen
Michael Kaufman, the New York Times’ Warsaw Bureau Chief recognized the courage, audacity and importance of Popieluszko’s message when he wrote: “Nowhere else from East Berlin to Vladivostok could anyone stand before ten or fifteen thousand people and use a microphone to condemn the errors of state and party. Nowhere, in that vast stretch encompassing some four hundred million people, was anyone else openly telling a crowd that defiance of authority was an obligation of the heart, of religion, manhood, and nationhood.”

Among the tens of thousands of Poles listening to the voice of the brave, young priest were government agents who recognized that their position and privilege were threatened by the truth being powerfully proclaimed.

In 1983 the persecution of Father Popieluszko became routine. He was frequently called to police headquarters for interrogations, spent many nights in prison, his car was vandalized, his apartment was broken into, and the authorities even planted subversive literature and bomb making materials in his apartment.

During these trials, the Holy Father asked aides why the Church in Poland was not providing greater support and protection for the priest. To show his own solidarity, the Pope sent Father Popieluszko his own Rosary.

On October 13, 1984 there was an unsuccessful attempt on his life. Father Jerzy and his driver were traveling the Gdansk-Warsaw road when something was thrown at his car that would have caused it to crash. The driver swerved the car and avoided what could have been a fatal “accident”.

Despite warnings that there could be “serious consequences” if he preached in the northern town of Bydgoszcz a week later on October 19, 1984, he celebrated Mass and instead of preaching led the people in a meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. His conclusion to the reflections were his last public words:
"In order to defeat evil with good, in order to preserve the dignity of man, one must not use violence. It is the person who has failed to win on the strength of his heart and his reason who tries to win by force… Let us pray that we may be free from fear and intimidation, but above all from lust for revenge and violence."
Government security agents who are believed to have been in that congregation followed the priest and his driver for about an hour on the return journey to Warsaw. On a lonely stretch of road they stopped the car, arrested, gagged and bound the driver and put him in the unmarked police car. Father Popieluszko asked, “Gentlemen, what are you doing?”

According to Father Groody:

“The ‘police’ beat him senseless with clubs and their fists and threw him into the boot of their car and drove off. Father Jerzy recovered consciousness and began to shout and bang on the boot of the car. They stopped to gag him but Father Jerzy managed to escape. He was recaptured and again beaten with clubs. A second time he regained consciousness and this time the officers tied him with ropes around his neck and ankles in such a way that if he moved his feet, the rope would tighten around his neck. They also stuffed his mouth with material and secured it with sticking plaster, which also covered his nose thus restricting his breathing even more. The senior officer ordered that stones should be tied to his feet and returned him to the car boot. They then drove to a dam on the Wisia River where they removed Father Jerzy from the boot and threw him into the water. Forensic experts later stated that at this point he may have still been alive.

The body of Father Popieluszko was retrieved ten days later from the Wloclawek Reservoir. The body was covered with deep wounds. His face was unrecognizable, his jaw, nose, mouth and skull were smashed. He was identified by his brother from a birthmark to the side of his chest. One of the doctors who performed the post mortem said that he had never seen such violent injuries. There was blood in his lungs and his kidneys and
intestines were reduced to pulp.”

The funeral of Father Popieluszko was attended by nearly a half million people. Pope John Paul II and leaders from throughout the world have prayed at his grave, and on February 8, 1997 his cause for beatification was introduced.

On the twenty-first anniversary of Father Popieluszko’s murder, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe stated:

“It is right and just to commemorate the death of Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Father Popieluszko was a true, modern-day, Polish hero and martyr, who died in the struggle for freedom in his beloved Poland. His courageous support for Solidarity in the face of oppression is an inspiration to all freedom loving people around the world. It is a consolation to all of us in Poland today, especially to Father Popieluszko’s church, parishioners, family and friends, that his sacrifice will be remembered forever and that his flame will burn brightly in the pantheon of Polish heroes.”

Born on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Father Popieluszko wholeheartedly took up the heavy cross set before him, and in so doing, his life became a sermon and sacrifice that has freed nations and inspired all men who love truth and freedom.

Father Popieluszko, your “death has opened our eyes, the eyes of our hearts, our minds and our faith.” Pray for us, O Holy Servant of God!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa
Queen of Poland

Prayer (From the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa, August 26)
Almighty and merciful God, you have wondrously given a constant protection to the Polish nation in the Blessed Virgin Mary and adorned her sacred picture at Jasna Gora with unusual veneration of the faithful. Graciously grant that, having such aid in the battles of our life, we may be victorious over our enemy at the moment of death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

In 1683 the valiant Polish King Jan Sobieski marched to the gates of Vienna and saved western civilization from being overrun by Moslem hordes. In his message informing Pope Innocent XI that Christendom had been saved, the King wrote, "I came, I saw, God conquered." That sums up very well a thousand years of miraculous Polish history.

In what is arguably one of the most indefensible landscapes in the world, the Polish people ha
ve been overrun many times, but the soul of Poland has never been conquered. Their fortress is union with Christ in a nation under the Queenship of His Blessed Mother.

The Polish nation led the overthrow of the most murderous, totalitarian regime of all time. Pope John Paul II termed it a "victory of fidelity": "fidelity to Christ crucified in the moment of your own crucifixion";
fidelity to the Holy Spirit "who led you through the darkness"; fidelity to "Peter's successors and to the successors of the apostles, the bishops"; and "fidelity to the nation which is particularly expressed in solidarity with the persecuted and ... those who seek the truth and love freedom."

The Holy Father charged his countrymen with the task of building a free Church "on the basis of what you have brought to maturity during the years of trial."
Today Poland stands alone among the nations of what was once Christendom, in rejecting a new slavery of secular humanism, materialism and hedonism. Forged in the fire of the twentieth century, will she once again be the instrument God uses to save western civilization?

I have been moved to learn about Poland and its role in salvific history, by Pope John Paul II, by the life and martyrdom of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, and by extraordinarily good and loving Polish people who became my best friends when I lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. Those friends and I confronted evil, and with prayer, perseverance, solidarity and hope, we watched as "God conquered."

On this day, commemorated by a Polish language Mass and Jersey City's Polish Festival, I send my love and very best wishes to the Committee for the Defense of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church and all those who helped us. Sto Lat!