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. Appointed 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.
Early life and ordination
Wyszyński was born in a village, Zuzela, on the River Bug
, on the regional border between Mazovia
outcome of the Partitions
the late 18th century, these territories were part of the Russian
partitional zone until the end of the First World War
. In those areas directly
incorporated in the Russian Empire there was an intensive campaign
to make the Polish population abandon their traditions and lose
their national awareness.
Wyszyński's father (his mother had died when he was nine) sent him
completed his grammar school education there in 1915. He then 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
Priest and professor
celebrated his first Solemn High Mass
of Thanksgiving, at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, a place of special spiritual significance for many
there holds the picture of the
Our Lady of
, the patron saint
guardian of Poland. Father Wyszyński spent the next four years in
Lublin, where in 1929 he received the doctor's degree in the
Faculty of Canon Law and the Social
Sciences of the Catholic University of Lublin.
His dissertation in Canon Law, wasentitled
The Rights of the Family, Church and State to Schools
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.
broke out on 1 August
1944, he became chaplain
of the Kampinos
unit of the Armia Krajowa
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
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
October 1948, he was named Metropolitan Archbishop of Gniezno
and thus Primate of Poland, on 12 November 1948.
Monument of Cardinal Wyszyński in Warsaw.
Post-war resistance to Communism
World War II ended in 1944 however in eastern present-day Poland,
and later in the west hostilities continued between a large segment
of native Poles and the Stalinist
which lasted for several years. The Catholic Church was hoping for
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. The Catholic Church had been the
largest single land owner just before the war.
In 1950 Archbishop Wyszyński decided to enter into a secret
agreement with the Communist
, which was signed on 14 February 1950 by the Polish
government. The agreement settled political dispute of the Church
in Poland. It allowed the Church to hold reasonable property,
separated church from politics, prohibited religious indoctrination
in public schools, and even allowed authorities to select a bishop
from 3 candidates presented. Karol
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.
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
monastery in Komańcza in the Bieszczady
While imprisoned, he observed the brutal torture
and mistreatment of the detainees, some highly perverse in nature.
He was released on 26 October 1956.
Relations with Jews
After the war Stefan Wyszyński demonstrated anti-semitic
attitudes. When a hand grenade
had been thrown into the local
Jewish community headquarters Stefan Wyszyński was approached by
the Jewish delegation. Wyszyński stated that the popular hatred of
Jews was caused by Jewish support for Communism, which had also
been the reason why "the Germans murdered the Jewish nation".
Wyszyński also gave some credence to blood libel rumors commenting
that the question of the use of Christian blood was never
Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński
Cardinal and Primate of Poland
January 1953, Wyszyński was elevated to the rank of Cardinal-Priest
of Basilica di Santa Maria in
Trastevere by Pius XII.
Nonetheless, 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
. During the celebration, the Communist authorities refused to
allow Pope Paul VI
to visit Poland;
they also prevented Cardinal Wyszyński from attending overseas
celebrations. Wyszyński triumphed in 1978, when Karol Wojtyla
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. To commemorate the twentieth
anniversary of his death, the year 2001 was celebrated as the Year
of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
In 2000 a motion picture was made about the life and imprisonment
of Wyszyński, The Primate - Three Years Out of a Thousand
directed by Teresa Kotlarczyk. The title role was played by
In the CBS miniseries
Pope John Paul II
(based upon the life of the Polish
), Cardinal Wyszyński was portrayed by English actor