Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest and prominent Solidarity supporter, was murdered by communist-era secret police in 1984. In 2010, he was beatified and declared a martyr for the faith. His grave in Warsaw is one of Poland’s main destinations for religious pilgrimages. It has so far been visited by over 20 million people from all over the world, including two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, in addition to figures such as Mother Theresa, George W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Vaclav Havel and the Prince of Wales.
Father Jerzy was born in Okopy as a son of Marianna (nee Gniedziejko) and Wladyslaw, on September 14th 1947. After graduation from high school, he gets admitted to Metropolitan Seminary in Warsaw.
However, he is soon called up to the army, where he is sent to a clerical compound under increased rigour, situated in Bartoszyce.
On 28th of May 1972, he receives Holy Orders in Saint John’s Metropolitan Cathedral, in the presence of Cardinal Wyszyński.
On 20th of May 1980, he is sent as a representative to Saint Stanislaw Kostka’s parish in Żoliborz, Warsaw.
On 31st of August 1980, a holy mass for strikers in ironworks (Huta Warszawa) is conducted by Father Jerzy.
Father Popiełuszko was one of the staunchest supporters of Poland’s Solidarity freedom movement in the 1980s, serving as chaplain to workers at a Warsaw steel mill in 1980 and 1981. During martial law, he celebrated monthly “Masses for the Homeland” that attracted tens of thousands of people to St. Stanislaus Church. 13.10.1984 Father Jerzy goes to Gdańsk to conduct a holy mass in the Saint Brygida Church.
He is constantly followed by Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek Pękala & Waldemar Chmielewski (secrect communist security service). On his way back to Warsaw, around midnight, first attempt to kill Father Jerzy takes place. 18.10.1984 Popiełuszko conducts a holy mass for a medical personnel in Siostry Wizytki church, Warsaw. Next day, he and his driver go to Bydgoszcz.
At 6 o’clock he conducts a rosary mass. Around 10 p.m, on his way back to Warsaw (near Przysiek, Toruń) he is kidnapped by Piotrowski, Pękała and Chmielewski.
They viciously torture Father Jerzy, tie his hands and close him in the trunk of their car. They drop Father Jerzy’s unconscious body to the Vistula river. Information about founding Popiełuszko’s body is released to the public on 30th of October 1984.
Funeral took place on 3rd of November. Thousands of people from the whole country, but also 6 bishops as well as Card. Glemp, were present on that day.
Special decision acquired that Father Jerzy was laid to rest by the Saint Stanislaw Kostka church in Warsaw.
Jerzy Popiełuszko was beatified in Warsaw, on Sunday 6th of June 2010.
In his homilies, he condemned violations of human rights and called for freedom and dignity of the working people. The motto of his pastoral work was “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Pictures: HistoryinPL and British Poles