Thursday, October 30, 2008

What to do with a troublesome priest?

The trial of Jesus goes on forever. It continues through his brothers. Only their names, their faces, their dates, and their birth places change. — Jerzy Popiełuszko

The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life. — Lech Walesa

Jerzy Popiełuszko was found 30 October 1984, he had been tortured and murdered, eleven days before, by secret police. He was a labor priest of great spirituality and courage enough to criticise the regime. Poland was under martial law. The free labor movement was crippled and forbidden, and only the church was allowed to have public gatherings. Popiełuszko was the spark in this crucible. He was chaplain to the steelworkers.

He said masses for the polish nation. They included poetry and national song. He believed the church could not be neutral, and must speak for the people. ‘Patriotic struggle to reinstate human dignity’ was solidarity. He frequently spoke of truth and freedom, dangerous words of sedition to most governments. Non-violent resistance is equated, by authorities, as criminal violence.

Radio Free Europe broadcasted his sermons. The government was determined to silence him, one way or another. Now, his words from Warsawa’s St. Stanisław Kostka, encouraged the nation to protest. Anti-communists, outside the country, enjoyed this disruption to the regime. The people approved of his words. A quarter of a million people came to his funeral. All Poland knew this priest. His murderers were convicted, the government held on a few years longer. This was filmed in a fictionalised biography as To Kill a Priest. A non-fiction book, of the same name, was written by Kevin Ruane.

He believed in Jesus and His people. The church is slow to act on the status of such civically troublesome priests. This year, Jerzy Popieluszko was recognised as a Servant of God.

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