Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Priest for Our Times

Close to 150,000 faithful flooded into Warsaw Sunday for the beatification of Jerzy Popieluszko, a Roman Catholic priest and opposition activist murdered 25 years ago by Poland's communist secret police.

Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B , the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, represented Pope Benedict XVI at the beatification mass also attended by some Cardinals, including William Levada, and 100 bishops, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Jerzy Buzek, the head of the European Parliament.

On October 19, 1984, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a young priest from the Warsaw parish of St. Stanislaw Kostka, was invited to a prayer meeting held by the association for the pastoral care of workers of the town of Bydgoszcz. He celebrated Mass first, then commented on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. He ended his comment with the following words: “Let’s pray God to set us free from fear and terror, but, first and foremost, from the desire for violence and vengeance.”

At the end of the meeting Father Popieluszko decided to go back home even though it was late. He was traveling in a car driven by a certain Waldemard Chrostowski.

When the car got close to a village called Górsk, it was stopped by officers of the secret service in the disguise of traffic police. After handcuffing the driver, they stunned the priest with a knock on the head, gagged him and threw him into the trunk of the car and drove away.

Chrostowski managed to get off the running car and gave the alarm.

The escape of Popieluszko’s driver did not make the police officers change their criminal plans: they beat the priest to death — the doctor who did the autopsy declared that he had never seen a man with such internal lesions — tied his hands and feet behind his back and threw him into the Vistula river with a bag full of stones tied to one leg.

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