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Servant of God, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński (born: 3rd August 1901 in Zuzela, died: 28th  May 1981 in Warsaw)
Childhood and youth

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was the second child of Stanisław ( a local church organist) and Julianna (née Karp) Wyszyńskis, born on 3 August 1901 in Zuzela on the river Bug – a town on the border between the regions of Mazovia and Podlasie. In 1910 the family moved to Andrzejów, where his mother suddenly died. Before her death she said to her son: “Stefan, get dressed”. The boy went to put on his coat, thinking that his mother wanted him to go out and call on someone for her, but she added: “Get dressed, but not like that.” His father explained to him that his mother wanted him to wear  the clerical robe someday. Between 1912-1915 Wysznski attended the Górski Gymnasium middle school in Warsaw. Because of the first world war (1914-1917) he changed schools and attended the Piotr Skarga Memorial Gymnasium for boys in Łomża. From 1917-1920 he studied at the Pius X Memorial Lyceum (Lower Theological Seminary) in Włocławek and later, from 1920-1924 he was a seminarian of the Higher Theological Seminary in Włocławek.

The Priesthood

Wyszyński was ordained on 3rd  August 1924, on his 23rd birthday, by Bishop Wojciech Stanisław Owczarek in the Basilica Cathedral in Włocławek. Between 1925-1929 he was a student of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Catholic University of Lublin, he concluded these studies by obtaining a doctoral degree on the subject “The rights of the family, of the church and of the state to school”.
In 1931 Wyszyński  became the vicar of the Holy Family Parish in Przedecz. From 1932 he also worked as the editor in chief of the Włocławek monthly “Priestly Ateneum” (“Ateneum Kapłańskie”), as well as chairing the Marian Sodality (“Sodalicja Mariańska”), managing a Christian university for workers and conducting socio-educational activities with the Christian trade unions. After the outbreak of World War II, by order of Bishop Michał Kozal, Wyszyński was obliged to hide from the Gestapo, but during the Warsaw Uprising he served as the Home Army chaplain for the Home Army Kampinos Group (serving in, amongst others, the area of the town of Laski), and served as a chaplain in the insurgents’ hospital, under the pseudonym Radwan III.

Bishopdom

wyszynski1After the war Wyszyński returned to Włocławek where he reorganized the seminary and served as the rector. In 1946, appointed bishop of Lublin, he received episcopal ordination from the hands of Cardinal August Hlond, the Polish Primate. In his episcopal coat of arms he placed the words “Soli Deo”, i.e. “To God Alone”. His service "to God alone" through the Virgin Mary was visible his whole life. His “Exile Notes” contain a summary of his Mariology, dating back to the time of his childhood and youth. “Early in my life", he wrote, "I lost my own mother. She had a special devotion to the Mother of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, where she had gone several times on a pilgrimage. My father, however, always used to go on a pilgrimage to Jasna Góra. The worship of Our Lady in our family life was very extensive and we often prayed the Rosary together in the evenings.”

Archbishopdom

After the death of Primate August Hlond in 1948, when the most serious candidate for his successor, Bishop of Łomża, Stanisław Kostka Łukomski, was killed in a car accident caused by the UB (the Polish communist secret police), Wyszyński, was unexpectedly appointed Archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno, Polish Primate. On the 12th January 1953 at the consistory in Rome he was nominated cardinal – a member of the College of Cardinals – by Pope Pius XII. He was the only Polish cardinal who took part in four papal conclaves, including in 1958, where there were a few votes were cast for him, and in 1963 where he was the sole representative of Eastern Europe.

Agreement with the communist authorities

On the 14th  April 1950 Wyszyński signed an agreement with the communist authorities on behalf of the Polish Episcopate. In return for the guarantee of religious education being instituted in schools and the functioning of the Catholic University in Lublin, the Polish Church acknowledged the eastern borders of the PRP (Polish People's Republic) and condemned the “reactionary gangs of the underground”.

Repressions

In the 1950's, during the period of tension between the state and the church, the policies of the communist regime in Poland (enforced by the Soviet Union) sought to remove all opposition and destroy any independent institutions, of which the primary remaining institution was the Catholic Church headed by Primate. The task of removing the Church was entrusted to the Ministry of Public Security, a ministry established by the Department of Public Security
(RBP) at the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN). In line with this agenda Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was arrested on the 25th September 1953, as part of the communist repressions against the Catholic Church. He was imprisoned with others seen as a threat to the communist regime, notably the nun Maria Leona Graczyk and Rev. Stanisław Skorodecki.

Places of detention
  • Rywałd (25th September 1953 – 12th October 1953)
  • Stoczek Warmiński (12th October 1953 – 6th October 1954)
  • Prudnik (6th October 1954 – 27th October 1955)
  • Komańcza (27th October 1955 – 26 October 1956 – released; here on the 16th May 1956 he wrote the text for the "Jasna Góra Vows of the Polish Nation")
Jasna Góra Vows of the Polish Nation

Isolated in the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth in Komańcza, Wyszyński did not want to write the text of the vows. It was Maria Okońska who contributed to the composing of the vows, as she mentioned to the Cardinal the example of Saint Paul who wrote letters to the faithful from prison. Finally, he wrote the text of the national vows, which were intended to be the renewal of the Lviv royal vows of the Polish king, John Casimir, on their three-hundredth anniversary. On 26th August 1956 Bishop Michał Klepacz, acting president of the Polish Episcopate, read out the vows to about one million pilgrims gathered at the Jasna Góra Sanctuary.

Normalization of relations with the communist authorities

Between 1957-1966 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński carried out the celebrations for the millennium anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in Poland. In 1958 he succeeded in making efforts to diminish the diplomatic significance of the embassy of the Polish government in exile in the Holy See. He also attended the meetings of the Second Vatican Council. In 1965 he was one of the initiators of the Letter of Reconciliation from the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops. He supported the activities of the members of Parliament who belonged to Catholic environments (ZNAK, PAX and ChSS) in the Parliament (Sejm) of the PRP (Polish People’s Republic). He consulted with them on many important decisions. The Polish communist authorities, led by Wiesław Gomułka, refused to issue him with a passport to Italy, as another form of repression, thus restricting his contact with the Vatican. In 1972, thanks to his many years of effort, the Vatican finally acknowledged the western borders of Poland (PRP) and suspended diplomatic relations with the Polish government in exile. In 1976 the communist Prime Minister, Piotr Jaroszewicz, extended his best wishes  to the Primate on his 75th birthday, an attempt to improve relations with the Church after the crackdown on the recent workers’ protests by the communist authorities. During the “Polish August 1980” (when a strike wave swept across the country in opposition to the communist regime), out of concern for the peace and the welfare of the nation, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński constantly called for prudence and responsibility. In 1980-1981 Wyszyński also mediated in the talks between the Polish communist authorities and the Solidarity movement.

Illness and death

black 02wyszynskiIn mid-March 1981 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the doctors’ efforts, the disease could not be halted. On 16th May 1981 the Primate received the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick. After receiving the sacrament, he addressed the persons gathered at his bedside, referring to the attack on the life of Pope John Paul II, which took place on 13 May 1981. He said: “I believe that I should share the lot of the Holy Father John Paul II, who, although some time later, united with me in suffering.”
On 22 May 1981 he appeared in public for the last time, opening the session of the General Council of the Polish Episcopate. He died six days later, on Thursday 28th May 1981,  the Day of Ascension. In the official statement made by the General Council of the Polish Episcopate it was announced that the cause of his death had been 'diffuse abdominal neoplasia' with prominent malignancy and rapid progress. That same day the Joint Commission of the Representatives of the Government and the Episcopate gathered. The representatives of the government handed to the Deputy Chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, a letter of condolence addressed to the Episcopate. At the meeting of the Joint Commission it was decided to declare the national days of mourning from the 28th to the 31st May 1981. On the day of the death of the Primate a telegram of condolence arrived from Pope John Paul II, who was at the time undergoing rehabilitation following the attack on his life. The Pope also celebrated a Holy Mass for the repose of the soul of the Primate in his hospital room. Another funeral Holy Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Władysław Rubin in the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, the titular church of the deceased. On the evening of the 28th May 1981 the body of the deceased was carried in a procession from the Archbishops’ Palace in Warsaw, located at ul. Miodowa, to the Seminar Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and of St. Joseph on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, where the funeral Holy Mass was led by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski.

 

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"It is impossible to conduct a fair dialogue without having the necessary basic knowledge which enables us to demonstrate to the person with whom we are in dialogue not only the different ways of understanding things, but the reasons for such understanding.”

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński

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 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw
ul. Dewajtis 5, 01-815 Warszawa
Head Office, phone: +48225618852

Taxpayer’s Identification Number (NIP): 525-00-12-946
Statistical number (REGON): 000001956

Bank account: Bank Zachodni WBK
87 1090 2851 0000 0001 2031 4629

 

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