Stefan Wyszyński

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His Eminence
Stefan Wyszyński
Cardinal, Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw
Primate of Poland
Stefan Wyszyński.jpg
See Archdiocese of Gniezno
Archdiocese of Warsaw
In office 12 November 1948 - 28 May 1981
Predecessor August Hlond
Successor Józef Glemp
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere (1957-1981)
Ordination 3 August 1924
by Wojciech Stanisław Owczarek
Consecration 12 May 1946
by August Hlond
Created Cardinal 12 January 1953
by Pope Pius XII
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1901-08-03)3 August 1901
Zuzela, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
Died 28 May 1981(1981-05-28) (aged 79)
Warsaw, Poland
Previous post Bishop of Lublin (1946-1948)
Motto Soli Deo ("To God alone")
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Patronage Civitas Christiana[1]
Styles of
Stefan Wyszyński
Wyszynski Coat of Arms.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Warsaw

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

The case for his beatification and canonization opened in 1989 (now has the title of Servant of God) and has many proponents in the Vatican and in his native Poland, where he is well known for his heroic and principled stand against Nazism and Communism and because of his connections to Pope John Paul II (he ultimately urged then-Cardinal Wojtyla to accept his election as Supreme Pontiff).

He was the unquestionable leader of Polish nation (the non-crowned king of Poland), in opposition to the totalitarian government that was dependent on the Soviet Union. He is widely believed to be responsible for the survival of Polish Christianity under the highly unfavorable circumstances. He has been imprisoned for three years by the Communists, and is commonly considered as a Polish national hero.

Early life and ordination[edit]

Wyszyński was born in the village Zuzela, in the eastern Mazovia, on the Bug River. Because of the Partitions of Poland, these territories were part of the Russian Empire (more specifically, the Congress Poland) until the end of the First World War. Wyszyński family belonged to the nobility (szlachta), having the coat of arms Trzywdar and the title of baron, although it was not very rich.

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 24th birthday (3 August 1924), after being hospitalised with a serious illness, he received his priestly ordination from Bishop Adalberto 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 picture of the Black Madonna, or Our Lady of Częstochowa, the patron saint and guardian of Poland. Father 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. For several years after graduation he travelled throughout Europe, where he furthered his education.

After returning to Poland, Father Wyszyński began teaching at the seminary in Włocławek. When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he left Włocławek because he was wanted by the Germans for the pastoral duties he had performed for working-class people. 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 Polish underground resistance organisation.

In 1945, a year after end of war in the area, Wyszyński returned to Włocławek, where he started a restoration project for the devastated seminary, becoming its rector and 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 August Cardinal Hlond on 12 May that year. After the death of Cardinal Hlond on 22 October 1948, he was named Metropolitan Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, and thus Primate of Poland, on 12 November 1948.

Post-war resistance to Communism[edit]

World War II ended in 1944; however in the eastern present-day Poland, and later in the west, hostilities continued between a large segment of native Poles and the Stalinist government, which lasted for several years. The Catholic Church was hoping for the return of the Polish government-in-exile from London and the removal of Stalin's puppet regime. The Church actively supported the anti-Communists. One of the prime issues was the confiscation of properties for public use, including secular schools and for distribution among farmers. In 1950, Archbishop 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 political dispute of the Church in Poland. It allowed the Church to hold onto reasonable property, separated the church from politics, prohibited religious indoctrination in public schools, and even allowed authorities to select a bishop from 3 candidates presented. Karol Wojtyla was selected in such a manner.

Beginning in 1953, another wave of persecution swept Poland. When the bishops continued support for resistance, mass trials and the internment of priests began – the cardinal being among the victims. On 25 September 1953 he was imprisoned at Rywałd, and later placed under house arrest in Stoczek 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 the detainees, some of it highly perverse in nature. He was released on 26 October 1956.

Cardinal and Primate of Poland[edit]

Stefan Cardinal 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-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere by Pope Pius XII.

He never stopped his religious and social work. Its crowning achievement was the celebration of Poland's Millennium of Christianity in 1966 – the thousandth anniversary of the baptism of Poland's first prince, Mieszko I. During the celebration, the Communist authorities refused to allow Pope Paul VI to visit Poland and they also prevented Cardinal Wyszyński from attending overseas celebrations. 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 be responsible for their actions.

Cardinal Wyszyński, often called the Primate of the Millennium, died on 28 May 1981 at the age of 79 due to abdominal cancer. He is buried in St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw.

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".


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.

Cause of beatification[edit]

Nihil obstat was declared for the late cardinal on 26 April 1989 at the behest of Pope John Paul II. Therefore, he now has the title of Servant of God, the first step on the road to sainthood. The diocesan process of the cause has been completed and currently the Positio is being assembled for submission to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. An investigation on a diocesan level was initiated in March 2012 for an alleged miracle which concluded its business in May 2013.[2][3]

The next step for the cause is for an official recognition of heroic virtue in a papal decree. If this happens then the late cardinal can be called "Venerable".

See also[edit]


  • 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;
  • Romaniuk M.P., Prymas Wyszyński. Biografia i wybrane źródła, Gaudentinum, Gniezno 2001, ISBN 83-87926-50-7;
  • 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. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Primate Wyszynski - why a saint?". Sunday Catholic Weekly. 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Cardinal Wyszynski on the way to the altars". Sunday Catholic Weekly. 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 

External links[edit]

  • Rooney, David M., Religion and nationalism in Soviet and East European politics, National Review; 11/7/1986.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
August Hlond
Primate of Poland
Succeeded by
Józef Glemp
Archbishop of Gniezno
Archbishop of Warsaw