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Stefan Wyszyński

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Stefan Wyszyński
Archbishop of Gniezno
Archbishop of Warsaw
Primate of Poland
ChurchCatholic Church
Appointed12 November 1948
Installed2 February 1949 (Gniezno)
6 February 1949 (Warsaw)
Term ended28 May 1981
PredecessorAugust Hlond
SuccessorJózef Glemp
Other post(s)Apostolic Administrator of Lviv of the Armenians (1954-81)
President of the Polish Episcopal Conference (1956-81)
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere (1957–81)
Ordination3 August 1924
by Wojciech Stanisław Owczarek
Consecration12 May 1946
by August Hlond
Created cardinal12 January 1953
by Pope Pius XII
Personal details
Stefan Wyszyński

(1901-08-03)3 August 1901
Died28 May 1981(1981-05-28) (aged 79)
Warsaw, Poland
Previous post(s)Bishop of Lublin (1946–48)
President of the Polish Episcopal Conference (1948-53)
MottoSoli Deo
("To God alone")
SignatureStefan Wyszyński's signature
Coat of armsStefan Wyszyński's coat of arms
Feast day28 May
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified12 September 2021
Temple of Divine Providence, Wilanów, Warsaw, Poland
by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro on behalf of Pope Francis
AttributesCardinal's attire
  • Civitas Christiana[1]
  • Persecuted Christians
Styles of
Stefan Wyszyński
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Stefan Wyszyński (3 August 1901 – 28 May 1981) was a Polish prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Lublin from 1946 to 1948, Archbishop of Warsaw and Archbishop of Gniezno from 1948 to 1981. He was created a cardinal on 12 January 1953 by Pope Pius XII. He assumed the title of Primate of Poland.

The case for his beatification and canonization opened in 1989 (he had the title of Servant of God when the cause commenced) and has many proponents in the Vatican and in his native Poland, where he is well known for his stands against both National Socialism and Communism, and because of his connections to Pope John Paul II (he played a key role in urging Cardinal Wojtyła to accept his election as pope). Pope Francis named him as Venerable on 18 December 2017 upon confirming his heroic virtue. He was scheduled to be beatified in Warsaw on 7 June 2020 but the beatification was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] It was rescheduled and celebrated on 12 September 2021.[3]

To many he was the unquestionable spiritual leader of the Polish nation, in opposition to the Communist government.[4] He is also credited for the survival of Polish Christianity in the face of its repression and persecution during the reign of the 1945–1989 Communist regime. He himself was imprisoned for three years, and is considered by many[clarification needed] to be one of Poland's national heroes.[4]

Early life and ordination[edit]

Wyszyński was born in the village of Zuzela in eastern Mazovia on the Bug River. During the Partitions of Poland, this area was part of the Russian Empire (more specifically, Congress Poland) until the end of the First World War. The Wyszyński family counted itself among the nobility of Poland (the szlachta), with the coat of arms of Trzywdar and the title of baron, although it was not materially well off.

Wyszyński's mother died when he was nine. In 1912, his father sent him to Warsaw. In the years 1914–1916 Stefan attended the high-school in Łomża. The following year he enrolled in the seminary in Włocławek, and on his 23rd birthday (3 August 1924), after being hospitalised with a serious illness, he received his priestly ordination from Bishop Wojciech Stanisław Owczarek.

Priest and professor[edit]

Wyszyński celebrated his first Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving, at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, a place of special spiritual significance for many Catholic Poles. The Pauline monastery there holds the icon of the Black Madonna, or Our Lady of Częstochowa, the patron saint and guardian of Poland. Wyszyński spent the next four years in Lublin, where in 1929 he received a doctorate at the Faculty of Canon Law and the Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Lublin. His dissertation in Canon Law was entitled The Rights of the Family, Church and State to Schools.[5] For several years after graduation he traveled throughout Europe, where he furthered his education.[6]

After returning to Poland, Wyszyński began teaching at the seminary in Włocławek. When the Second World War broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, he was forced to leave Włocławek because he was wanted by the Gestapo: he had written articles critical of the Nazis in a Catholic journal.[7] At the request of Bishop Kozal, he went to Laski near Warsaw. When the Warsaw Uprising broke out on 1 August 1944, he adopted the nom de guerre "Radwan II" and became chaplain of the insurgents' hospital in Laski, and of the Żoliborz military district of the Armia Krajowa, the Polish underground resistance organisation.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Wyszyński aided several Jews. In the fall of 1941, the future cardinal took shelter from the Gestapo at the Żułów [pl] estate, run by Franciscan nuns. While there, he and another man helped hide a widowed Jewish labourer and his two children – who would be denounced by a Ukrainian nationalist and killed by the Germans in October/November 1942, five months after the liquidation of the local ghetto in Kraśniczyn[8] – in an attic. Additionally, Esther Grinberg, in her testimony held at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, credits the Polish assistance that saved her life to Wyszyński's veiled injunction, possibly in a sermon, to rescue "those running from the fire".[9][10]

In 1945, a year after the end of war in the area, Wyszyński returned to Włocławek, where he started a restoration project for the devastated seminary, becoming its rector as well as the chief editor of a Catholic weekly.


Just a year later, on 25 March 1946, Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Lublin; he was consecrated by Cardinal August Hlond on 12 May that year.

Asked by delegates of the Central Committee of Polish Jews to condemn the Kielce pogrom of 4 July 1946, bishop Wyszyński explained the massacre as popular retribution for Jewish participation in the new Communist government, adding that "the Germans wanted to exterminate the Jewish nation because the Jews spread Communism". He also claimed that Jewish books consulted during trial of Beilis had not dispelled the accusations of ritual murder, and demanded that the Jews leave Poland.[11]

After Hlond's death on 22 October 1948, Wyszyński was named Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, and thus Primate of Poland, on 12 November 1948. As the cardinal lay dying, he had asked that Wyszyński's name be forwarded to Rome as a potential replacement.

Post-war resistance to Communism[edit]

Wyszyński's cell in St. Joseph Church in Prudnik

World War II ended in 1945; however, beginning in the eastern portion of present-day Poland, and later in the west, hostilities continued for several years between a large segment of Poles and the Stalinist government. The Catholic Church hoped for the return of the Polish government-in-exile from London and the removal of Stalin's puppet regime; it actively supported the anti-Communists. One of the prime issues was the confiscation of church property by the Communist government. In 1950, Wyszyński decided to enter into a secret agreement with the Communist authorities, which was signed on 14 April 1950 by the Polish episcopate and the government. The agreement settled the political disputes of the church versus the government in Poland. It allowed the church to hold onto "reasonable" property[clarification needed], separated the church from politics, and even allowed authorities to select a bishop from a list of three candidates.

Beginning in 1953, another wave of persecution swept Poland. The bishops continued their support for anti-Communist resistance, the government began holding mass trials and imprisoning priests.[citation needed] In February 1953 the regime issued a decree which made Church appointments subject to regime approval as well as requiring oath of allegiance.[12] The episcopate, including Wyszyński rleleased a non possumus where they made their opposition clear. [12] Subsequently Bishop Czesław Kaczmarek was arrested and Wyszyński was asked to condemn him.[12] On 25 September 1953 he was imprisoned at Rywałd, and later placed under house arrest in Stoczek Klasztorny [pl] near Lidzbark Warmiński, in Prudnik near Opole and in the Komańcza monastery in the Bieszczady Mountains. While imprisoned, he observed the brutal torture and mistreatment of detainees, some of it highly perverse in nature[clarification needed]. He was released on 26 October 1956 following Polish October.

Cardinal and Primate of Poland[edit]

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
Mausoleum chapel of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw.

On 12 January 1953, Wyszyński was elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Pius XII,[13] but it was not until 18 May 1957 that he was designated Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere.[14]

He never stopped his religious and social work[clarification needed]. His crowning achievement was the celebration of Poland's Millennium of Christianity in 1966 – the thousandth anniversary of the baptism of Poland's first historical ruler, Mieszko I.[15][16] During the celebration, the Communist authorities refused to allow Pope Paul VI to visit Poland and they also prevented Cardinal Wyszyński from attending celebrations abroad. Wyszyński triumphed in 1978, when Karol Wojtyła of Kraków was elected Pope John Paul II, followed by a spectacular papal visit to Poland in 1979. Wyszyński did not turn a blind eye towards the civil unrest in 1980. When the Solidarity trade union was created in Poland, he appealed to both sides, the government as well as the striking workers, to act responsibly.

Cardinal Wyszyński, often called the Primate of the Millennium, died on 28 May 1981 at the age of 79 of abdominal cancer. He is buried in St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw. The cardinal, who had heard of the assassination attempt on the pope, offered his own life for that of the pontiff's.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his death, the year 2001 was announced by the Sejm as the Year of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. The Sejm also honoured the Cardinal as a "great Pole, chaplain and statesman".


Statue of Wyszyński near the Visitationist Church in Warsaw.

Wyszyński's major achievement was to preserve the position of the Catholic Church as a powerful social institution in Poland into the Communist era. Under Wyszyński, the Church gradually became an autonomous partner to the ruling nomenklatura in shaping the post-war society. Rather than implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Wyszyński's Church cultivated moral authority by appealing to tradition.[17]

In 1981 Krzysztof Penderecki composed the Agnus Dei of his Polish Requiem in his memory. In 2000, a motion picture was made about the life and imprisonment of Wyszyński. The Primate – Three Years Out of a Thousand was directed by Teresa Kotlarczyk. The title role was played by Andrzej Seweryn.

In the CBS miniseries Pope John Paul II (based on the life of the Polish pope), Cardinal Wyszyński was portrayed by English actor Christopher Lee.

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, earlier the Warsaw Theological Academy, was renamed for him. The Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński is being constructed at the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw.

In 2022, another motion picture of Wyszyński's life was made. Prophet, was directed by Michal Kondrat. The title role was played by Slawomir Grzymkowski.[18]


Stefan Wyszyński

Cardinal and Confessor
Born3 August 1901
Died28 May 1981 (aged 79)
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified12 September 2021, Warsaw, Poland by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro on behalf of Pope Francis
Feast28 May
AttributesCardinal's attire
PatronagePersecuted Christians, Civitas Christiana

The official "nihil obstat" was declared for the late cardinal on 26 April 1989 at the behest of Pope John Paul II. This gave Wyszyński the title of Servant of God and was the first step on the road to sainthood. The diocesan process of the cause commenced on 29 May 1989 and it concluded its business on 6 February 2001; the process was ratified by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 8 February 2002 in Rome. The Positio was assembled and was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in November 2015 in which documents were submitted to the Cardinal Prefect Angelo Amato from Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz.[19]

Theologians met to discuss the contents of the Positio on 26 April 2016 and voted in favor of the late cardinal's life of heroic virtue. It must be passed onto the members of the C.C.S. before receiving papal approval. The C.C.S. cardinal and bishop members voted and approved the cause in their meeting on 12 December 2017. Pope Francis confirmed his heroic virtue on 18 December 2017 and titled the late cardinal as Venerable.

An investigation on a diocesan level was initiated on 27 March 2012 for an alleged miracle attributed to him which concluded its business on 28 May 2013; the process was validated on 10 October 2014. The documentation proceeded from that point to Rome for further evaluation, but this evaluation could only take place upon the declaration of his heroic virtue (this happened in 2017 allowing for the miracle to be further assessed).[20][21] The medical experts in Rome approved the miracle on 29 November 2018 with theologians later confirming it as well as the cardinals and bishops comprising the Congregation on 24 September 2019.[22]

On 3 October 2019, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints officially approved the miracle, the last step to his beatification after the Congregation's members themselves approved the miracle on 24 September.[23] The beatification was scheduled to take place in Warsaw on 7 June 2020 but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] The beatification was rescheduled and celebrated on 12 September 2021 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro presiding on the Pope's behalf.[3]

See also[edit]


  • Congar, Yves (2012), My Journal of the Council, Adelaide: ATF Press, ISBN 9781921817441
  • Czaczkowska E., Kardynał Wyszyński, Świat Książki, Warszawa 2009, ISBN 978-83-247-1341-7;
  • Micewski A., Kardynał Wyszyński. Prymas i mąż stanu, Éditions du Dialogue, Paris 1982, ISBN 2-85316-038-6;
  • Michlic, Joanna; Polonsky, Antony (2005), "Catholicism and the Jews in Post-Communist Poland", in Lederhendler, Eli (ed.), Jews, Catholics, and the Burden of History, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 35–64, ISBN 978-0-19-530491-6
  • Romaniuk M.P., Prymas Wyszyński. Biografia i wybrane źródła, Gaudentinum, Gniezno 2001, ISBN 83-87926-50-7;
  • Shneiderman, Samuel Leib (1947), Between Fear and Hope, New York: Arco
  • Szeloch H., Rodzina wobec pomocniczości i dobra wspólnego w nauczaniu społecznym Stefana Kardynała Wyszyńskiego – Prymasa Polski, PWT Wrocław 1988.


  1. ^ "Wloclawek: the intention of the beatification of the Primate of the Millennium". Civitas Christiana. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b Beatyfikacja kard. Stefana Wyszyńskiego zawieszona PRZEJDŹ DO GALERII
  3. ^ a b "Komunikat Arcybiskupa Metropolity Warszawskiego". archidiecezja.warszawa.pl (in Polish). Archived from the original on 23 April 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Ostatni interrex. Polityczny autorytet z konieczności". www.rp.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  5. ^ Ficek, Ryszard (2021). "The Włocławek Period of Fr. Stefan Wyszyński's Pastoral Ministry: Presbyterate and The Time of Priestly-Spiritual Leadership (Part 2)". Resovia Sacra. 28: 60. doi:10.52097/rs.2021.57-74. S2CID 248080544.
  6. ^ Ficek (2021), p. 61
  7. ^ Ficek (2021), p. 63
  8. ^ Kraśniczyn – akcja "Reinhardt", Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre
  9. ^ Tomasz Krzyżak (16 February 2016). "Nieznane oblicze kard. Wyszyńskiego". Rzeczpospolita. Archived from the original on 15 September 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  10. ^ Paweł Rytel-Andrianik (20 January 2015). "The Unknown Side of Cardinal Wyszyński". Zenit News Agency. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  11. ^ Shneiderman 1947, p. 117.
  12. ^ a b c Kunicki, Mikołaj Stanisław (2012). Between the brown and the red: nationalism, Catholicism, and communism in twentieth-century Poland: the politics of Bolesław Piasecki. Ohio University Press Polish and Polish-American studies series. Athens: Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0-8214-2004-1.
  13. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. XLV. 1953. pp. 70–1. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  14. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. XLIX. 1957. p. 257. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  15. ^ Weigel, George (19 November 1991), "Catholics and Commissars: 1917-1978", The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism, Oxford University PressNew York, NY, pp. 3–14, ISBN 978-0-19-507160-3, retrieved 18 April 2024
  16. ^ Mazgaj, Marian S (2010). "The Main Events Affecting Church-State Relations". Church and State in Communist Poland: A History, 1944–1989. McFarland & Company. pp. 115–128.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  17. ^ Michlic & Polonsky 2005, p. 37–38; regarding the concern for social influence cf. the account of Congar 2012, p. 834, on how one of the secretariats of the Second Vatican Council in November 1965 "attempted to give satisfaction to a letter from Cardinal Wyszynski, in the name of the bishops of Poland (not to assert the transcendence of religion in such a way that the Communists could make use of it in order to confine priests to the sacristy)". Congar 2012, p. 456, found Wyszyński "very optimistic on the religious fidelity of the Poles" in November 1963.
  18. ^ "NEW FEATURE FILM "PROPHET" TELLS THE POWERFUL STORY OF THE MAN WHO PAVED THE WAY FOR POPE JOHN PAUL II". Fathom Events. 19 October 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Closer to the beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Warsaw: completed the next stage". Republika. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Primate Wyszynski – why a saint?". Sunday Catholic Weekly. 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  21. ^ "Cardinal Wyszynski on the way to the altars". Sunday Catholic Weekly. 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  22. ^ "Jest kolejny krok na drodze do beatyfikacji kard. Wyszyńskiego. Lekarze są zgodni". Religia Deon. 20 January 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Promulgazione di Decreti della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi". Sala Stampa della Santa Sede. 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Primate of Poland
Succeeded by
Archbishop of Gniezno
Archbishop of Warsaw
Preceded by
Marian Leon Fulman
Bishop of Lublin
4 March 1946 – 12 November 1948
Succeeded by
Piotr Kałwa
Preceded by Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere
18 May 1957 – 28 May 1981
Succeeded by
Józef Glemp