Born: September 23, 1947, Okopy, Poland
Died: October 19, 1984 near Gorsk, Poland
Quote. Solidarity leader Lech Walesa issued a statement saying: "The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life."
Early days. His parents, Marianna and Wladyslaw, were farmers. In 1961 he went to the Suchowola Gimnazjum (high school) which he finished in 1965 and entered Wyzsze Seminarium Duchowne (Higher Seminary) in Warsaw. During 1966-1968 he served the mandatory military service in a special unit for the clerics in Bartoszyce. After completion of the military service he felt ill. In 1972 he became a priest taking holy orders from the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.
Religious service. He worked initially in several parishes but had to interrupt this service in 1979 due to an illness. During the years 1979-1981 he was a pastor of medical staff. 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, he 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 broadcasted from Munich by CIA operated Radio Free Europe, and thus became famous throughout Poland for their uncompromising stance against the regime. According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the leader of the Polish Church, Archbishop Glemp, had summoned Father Popieluszko and told him several times "to tone down his sermons in accord with restraints and pressures imposed by the Communist system". The Służba Bezpieczeństwa tried to silence or intimidate him. When it did not work they fabricated evidence against him and he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty. It is reported that a car accident was set up to kill Jerzy Popiełuszko on October 13, 1984, but he escaped it. The alternative plan was to kidnap him, and it was carried out on October 19, 1984.The priest was beaten and murdered by three Security Police officers. Then, his body was dumped into the Vistula Water Reservoir near Włocławek from where it was recovered on October 30, 1984. News of the political murder caused an uproar throughout Poland, and the murderers and one of their superiors, Grzegorz Piotrowski, Adam Pietruszka, Leszek Pekala and Waldemar Chmielewski were convicted and sentenced to 25, 25, 15 and 14 years in prison respectively. It was not determined who gave the order to murder Popieluszko. More than 250,000 people, including Lech Walesa, attended his funeral on November 3, 1984. In 1997, the Roman Catholic Church started the process of his beatification.
Amovie about Father Popieluszko was made; look for
•To Kill a Priest (1988) at the Internet Movie Database, a movie directed by Agnieszka Holland
and a book was written:
•To Kill A Priest: The Murder of Father Popieluszko and the Fall of Communism by Kevin Ruane published by Gibson Square (London, 2004 ), 978-1-903933-54-1 / 1-903933-54-4.
This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "Jerzy Popieluszko" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :
Biography (in Polish)
Sunday- Catholic Weekly
Return to home page: