Cardinal Wyszynski was a very significant person during the Cold War. He became Primate of Poland when made cardinal in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. (Interestingly, Angelo Roncalli was also raised in the same consistory–but that’s the other story today!)
In addition, he will be known historically as the mentor of Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Wyszynski proposed Karol Wojtyla to be an auxiliary bishop in Poland.
Karol Wojtyla became Pope Saint John Paul II.
Throughout Wojtyla’s life he was his mentor and his partner.
The following biographical information may also be found on Papal History/Notable Individuals as well as pictures of this extraordinary man who endured tremendous hardship during the Nazi and Communist eras in Poland.
The modern world needs to be reminded of the great truth that men are called for eternal life and that their life does not end here, on earth. Our faith in eternal life has a very important meaning: it teaches us to respect men. We must always remember that man is the most important, most precious, most splendid work of God.
The excerpt is from the homily delivered by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland, on May 24, 1964, at the tomb of the Servant of God, Fr. Stanislaus Papczyński, in Góra Kalwaria near Warsaw. (He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 16, 2007 and is considered to be one of Poland’s holiest men.)
Stefan Wyszynski was born in a village called Zuzela on August 3, 1901, in what was then Russian territory due to the partitions of the late 18th century. At that time the Russian Empire had attempted to make the Polish people abandon their traditions and national awareness. His mother died when he was nine years of age. In 1912 his father sent him to Warsaw to complete his education. He enrolled in seminary and was ordained on his twenty-fourth birthday in 1924.
The next four years were spent in Lublin where he earned a doctoral degree in Canon Law and Social Sciences. Upon graduation he traveled extensively in Europe furthering his education. He then taught at the seminary in Wloclawek. His life changed dramatically with the onset of World War II in 1939 and with the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. At first he assumed pastoral duties for working class people, but eventually he became chaplain to members of the resistance movement. After the war, Wyszynski started a restoration project for the devastated seminary, became its rector and editor of a Catholic periodical.
On March 25th, 1946, Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Lublin, and on November 12, 1948, Archbishop of Warsaw. His life was filled with political upheaval. Although the war had ended in 1944, a large segment of Poland was engaged in hostilities with the Stalinist government. The Catholic Church actively supported the anti-Communist government. In 1950 Wyszynski signed an agreement with the civil authorities that allowed the Church to hold property, separated church and state, prohibited religious teaching in public schools and allowed for civil authorities to select a bishop from three candidates. In 1953, more persecution swept Poland. When bishops supported the resistance, mass trials and imprisonment of priests began and Cardinal Wyszynski was among them. In 1953, he began his imprisonment in various locations enduring brutal torture and mistreatment, some highly perverse in nature. He was released in 1956.
Pope Pius XII elevated him to the rank of cardinal on January 12, 1953. He never stopped his religious and social work, the crowning achievement of which was the celebration of Poland’s Millennium of Christianity in 1966, the thousandth anniversary of the baptism of Poland’s first prince, Mieszko I. The Communist authorities refused to allow Pope Paul VI to visit Poland, and they prevented Cardinal Wyszynski from attending any celebrations outside of Poland connected to the millennium. In 1978, his brother bishop, Karol Wojtyla of Krakow became Pope John Paul II. Though sometimes at odds with each other, he will be known historically as the mentor of John Paul II. Cardinal Wysznski proposed Karol Wojtyla to be an auxiliary bishop in Poland.
Cardinal Wyszynski worked hard during the Solidarity movement in Poland, appealing to the government and the striking workers to be responsible for their actions.
Cardinal Wyszynski, the Primate of the Millennium, died on May 28th, 1981. He was seventy-nine years of age.
Papal Artifacts acknowledges with gratitude the gift of his life and leadership to our Church.
Beatification of Cardinal Wyszynski
The beatification was celebrated on 12 September 2021 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro presiding on the Pope’s behalf.
(Due to Covid restrictions this beatification was delayed to 2021.)
Pope Francis approved a decree of beatification of late Polish Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, justified by the miracle of healing that occurred through Wyszynski’s intercession, the Vatican’s press office announced on Wednesday.
The process of examining the miracle was the second and last phase of the beatification process, which started in 1989. The date and location of the beatification mass will be announced soon.
In January 2019, a commission of doctors at the Vatican congregation approved the miracle documentation. Then the decree was approved by a commission of theologians. The last stage was the recent approval of the commission of cardinals and bishops.
In 1988, a 19-year-old Polish woman suffering from thyroid cancer was not considered curable. When a group of nuns and other people started praying for Cardinal Wyszynski’s intercession, the healing occurred immediately and was recognized as permanent.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, tweeted on Thursday the news means “great joy for Poland’s Catholic Church! We are grateful to the Pope for approving the miracle through Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski’s intercession.”
Cardinal Wyszynski, called the Primate of the Millennium, was one of the key figures in Poland’s 20th-century history, who defended the country’s religious freedom under communism. He died on May 28, 1981.
About the Video
The YouTube is included to show the great affection with which Pope John Paul II greeted his brother in Christ at the time of his elevation to the papacy.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us!