Jerzy Popiełuszko

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Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko
Jerzy Popieluszko.jpg
Born (1947-09-14)14 September 1947
Okopy near Suchowola, Poland
Died 19 October 1984(1984-10-19) (aged 37)
Włocławek, Poland
Honored in Roman Catholicism
Beatified 6 June 2010, Warsaw by Angelo Amato
Feast 19 October
Funeral
Funeral

Jerzy Popiełuszko (Polish pronunciation: [ˈjɛʐɨ popʲɛˈwuʂkɔ]; 14 September 1947[1] – 19 October 1984) was a Roman Catholic priest from Poland, associated with the Solidarity union. He was murdered by three agents of the Polish communist internal intelligence agency, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, (English: Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) who were shortly thereafter tried and convicted of the murder. He has been recognized as a martyr by the Catholic Church, and was beatified on 6 June 2010.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Born in Okopy near Suchowola, Jerzy Popiełuszko was a charismatic priest who was first sent to strikers in the Warsaw Steelworks. Thereafter he was associated with workers and trade unionists from the Solidarity movement who opposed the Communist regime in Poland.

He was a staunch anti-communist, and in his sermons, interwove spiritual exhortations with political messages, criticizing the Communist system and motivating people to protest. During the period of martial law, the Catholic Church was the only force that could voice protest comparatively openly, with the regular celebration of Mass presenting opportunities for public gatherings in churches.

Popiełuszko's sermons were routinely broadcast by Radio Free Europe, and thus became famous throughout Poland for their uncompromising stance against the regime. The Służba Bezpieczeństwa tried to silence or intimidate him. When those techniques did not work, they fabricated evidence against him; he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty.

Assassination[edit]

A car accident was set up to kill Jerzy Popiełuszko on 13 October 1984 but he escaped it. The alternative plan was to kidnap him and it was carried out on 19 October 1984. The priest was beaten and murdered by three Security Police officers, Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pekala and Waldemar Chmielewski. Then, his body was dumped into the Vistula Water Reservoir near Włocławek from where it was recovered on 30 October 1984.[3]

News of the political murder caused an uproar throughout Poland, and the murderers and one of their superiors, Colonel Adam Petruszka, were convicted of the crime. More than 250,000 people, including Lech Wałęsa, attended his funeral on 3 November 1984. Despite the murder and its repercussions, the Communist regime remained in power until 1989. Popiełuszko's murderers - Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, Waldemar Chmielewski and Colonel Adam Pietruszka (responsible for giving them the order to kill) - were jailed but released later as part of an amnesty.[3]

Popiełuszko became a recipient of the Order of the White Eagle (posthumous, 2009).[4]

Legacy[edit]

Media[edit]

Noted Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik wrote his Bassoon Concerto (1985) in memory of Popiełuszko, and the work is very specifically inspired by Popiełuszko's work and death.[5]

Christopher Lambert played a character inspired by Popiełuszko in the film To Kill a Priest.

A track entitled "Homily to Popiełuszko" is featured on the B-side to the album Flajelata (1986) by Muslimgauze. The entire B-side of that album is dedicated to all dissidents from the Soviet Union.

Ronald Harwood's documentary drama The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest was premiered at the Almeida Theatre in 1985 October — an early example of a theatre transcript of a trial, in this case the trial of Popiełuszko's murderers.

A movie, Popiełuszko, documenting the life and death of Popiełuszko was released in Poland in February 2009.

Another film, Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of the Truth, was produced by Paul G. Hensler in 2013.

Monuments[edit]

A monument to Fr. Popiełuszko in the form of a symbolic gravestone in the shape of a cross was erected by Chicago's Polish community in the garden of memory next to St. Hyacinth Basilica.

A monument to Fr. Popiełuszko in the form of a bust bearing his likeness with a chain wrapped about his neck was erected on the property of Saint Hedwig Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

A section of McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a historically Polish community, is named for Fr. Popiełuszko and features a stone bust bearing his likeness.

Popieluszko Court in Hartford, Connecticut USA was named in his memory. The SS. Cyril & Methodius Church is located on this street, serving as an important cornerstone for the area's Roman Catholic Polish-American immigrant community. The street intersects with Charter Oak Boulevard, with the main entrance to the parking lot of the Polish National Home of Hartford across the street at the end of Popieluszko Court.

The rock that was used to kill Popiełuszko was placed in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island as a relic of a 20th-century martyr part of the memorial to 20th- and 21st- century martytrs.[6]

Beatification and Canonisation[edit]

In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church started the process of his beatification and by 2008 he had Servant of God status. On 19 December 2009 it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the decree of beatification of Father Popiełuszko.[7] He was beatified on 6 June 2010 in Warsaw's Piłsudski Square. His mother, Marianna Popiełuszko was present at the event.[8] More than 100,000 people attended the open-air mass in the Polish capital Warsaw to beatify Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Poland Post issued a set of stamps on that same day to mark the beatification.[9]

In October 2013, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz - the Archbishop of Warsaw, the diocese where Popiełuszko was killed - announced that a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Polish priest has been identified and confirmed in France. Thus, Nycz predicts that Popiełuszko will likely be canonised (declared a saint by the Vatican) soon.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]