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Jerzy Popiełuszko

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko
File:Jerzy Popieluszko.jpg
Born (1947-09-14)14 September 1947
Okopy near Suchowola, Poland
Died 19 October 1984(1984-10-19) (aged 37)
Włocławek, Poland
Venerated in Template:If empty
Beatified 6 June 2010, Warsaw, Poland by Cardinal Angelo Amato
Feast 19 October
Attributes Crucifix
Patronage Solidarity

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko (Polish pronunciation: [ˈjɛʐɨ popʲɛˈwuʂkɔ]; 14 September 1947[1] – 19 October 1984) was a Polish Roman Catholic priest who became associated with the opposition Solidarity trade union in communist Poland. He was murdered in 1984 by three agents of the internal intelligence agency, the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, (English: Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) who were shortly thereafter tried and convicted of the murder.

He has been recognized as a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church, and was beatified on 6 June 2010 by Cardinal Angelo Amato on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.[2]


Early life and priesthood

Born in Okopy near Suchowola, 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, 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 broadcast by Radio Free Europe, and thus became famous throughout Poland for their uncompromising stance against the regime. The Służba Bezpieczeństwa tried to silence or intimidate him. When those techniques did not work, they fabricated evidence against him; he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty.


A car accident was set up to kill Jerzy Popiełuszko on 13 October 1984 but he escaped it. The alternative plan was to kidnap him and it was carried out on 19 October 1984. The priest was beaten to death by three Security Police officers, Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pekala and Waldemar Chmielewski, and his body was then dumped into the Vistula Water Reservoir near Włocławek from where it was recovered on 30 October 1984.[3]

News of the political murder caused an uproar throughout Poland, and the murderers and one of their superiors, Colonel Adam Petruszka, were convicted of the crime. More than 250,000 people, including Lech Wałęsa, attended his funeral on 3 November 1984. Despite the murder and its repercussions, the Communist regime remained in power until 1989. Popiełuszko's murderers - Captain Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala, Waldemar Chmielewski and Colonel Adam Pietruszka (responsible for giving them the order to kill) - were jailed but released later as part of an amnesty.[3]

Popiełuszko was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest decoration, in 2009.[4]



Noted Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik composed his Bassoon Concerto (1985) in memory of Popiełuszko. The work is inspired by Popiełuszko's work and death.[5]

Christopher Lambert played a character inspired by Popiełuszko in the film To Kill a Priest.

A track entitled "Homily to Popiełuszko" is featured on the B-side to the album Flajelata (1986) by Muslimgauze. The entire B-side of that album is dedicated to all dissidents from the Soviet Union.

Ronald Harwood's documentary drama The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest was premiered at the Almeida Theatre in 1985 October — an early example of a theatre transcript of a trial, in this case the trial of Popiełuszko's murderers.

A movie, Popiełuszko, documenting the life and death of Popiełuszko was released in Poland in February 2009.

Another film, Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of the Truth, was produced by Paul G. Hensler in 2013.


A monument to Fr. Popiełuszko in the form of a symbolic gravestone in the shape of a cross was erected by Chicago's Polish community in the garden of memory next to St. Hyacinth Basilica.

A monument to Fr. Popiełuszko in the form of a bust bearing his likeness with a chain wrapped about his neck was erected on the property of Saint Hedwig Catholic Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

A section of McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a historically Polish community, is named for Fr. Popiełuszko and features a stone bust bearing his likeness.

Popieluszko Court in Hartford, Connecticut USA was named in his memory. The SS. Cyril & Methodius Church is located on this street, serving as an important cornerstone for the area's Roman Catholic Polish-American immigrant community. The street intersects with Charter Oak Boulevard, with the main entrance to the parking lot of the Polish National Home of Hartford across the street at the end of Popieluszko Court.

The rock that was used to kill Popiełuszko was placed in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island as a relic of a 20th-century martyr part of the memorial to 20th- and 21st- century martytrs.[6]

Beatification and canonisation

The Roman Catholic Church started the process of his beatification with the declaration of "nihil obstat" (nothing against) on 15 March 1996 and held a diocesan process from 8 February 1997 to 8 February 2001. This conferred upon him the title of Servant of God. In 2008 the Positio was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and on 19 December 2009 it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the decree for the beatification of Father Popiełuszko.[7]

He was beatified by Cardinal Angelo Amato on 6 June 2010 in Warsaw's Piłsudski Square. His mother, Marianna Popiełuszko was present at the event.[8] More than 100,000 people attended the open-air mass in the Polish capital Warsaw to beatify Father Jerzy Popieluszko. Poland Post issued a set of stamps on that same day to mark the beatification.[9]

In October 2013, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz - the Archbishop of Warsaw, the diocese where Popiełuszko was killed - announced that a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Polish priest has been identified and confirmed in France. Thus Cardinal Nycz predicts that Popiełuszko will likely be canonized soon.[10]

See also


Further reading

  • Moody, John; Boyes, Roger (1987). The Priest and the Policeman: The Courageous Life and Cruel Murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-61896-2. 
  • To Kill A Priest: The Murder of Father Popieluszko and the Fall of Communism by Kevin Ruane (London: Gibson Books, 2004),[1] ISBN 978-1-903933-54-1 / 1-903933-54-4.

External links

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