On October 19, 2020, Poland recalled the ordeal endured just 36 years ago by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, one of the country’s many martyrs of communism. A Mass for the anniversary of the events was celebrated in the Polish capital.
In the church of Saint-Stanislas-Kotska, the emotion is palpable on this late afternoon on October 19, 2020, thirty-six years to days after the martyrdom endured by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, at the hand of his Communist executioners.
Archbishop Piotr Jarecki, Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw, celebrates a solemn Mass which, due to the Covid-19 epidemic, takes place in the presence of a handful of the faithful, including family members and friends of the priest, as well as representatives of the Polish state.
It was at t age of eighteen that Jerzy Popieluszko, a young man from a modest peasant family, entered the major seminary in Warsaw.
During his two years of military service, the young Levite carried out his first battles against the many and subtle psychological pressures exerted against him, in order to make him renounce the faith of his parents. Emerging from the ordeal, he received priestly ordination from Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in 1972.
In August 1980, after Pope John Paul II’s first trip to Poland, many Catholic workers began strikes against the Communist regime.
In the shipyards of Gdansk, under the leadership of Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarnosc [Solidarity] union, the workers asked the Archbishop of Warsaw for a priest to celebrate Mass for them: Fr. Popieluszko was appointed.
He was noticed quickly during the famous “Masses for the Fatherland,” celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. Established in October 1980, they were taken over by Fr. Popieluszko beginning in February 1981. They were very popular and gathered crowds, including unbelievers.
On December 13, 1981, martial law was promulgated by General Jaruzelski, ruler of Poland, who was nothing but a sycophant of Moscow.
Warsaw was occupied by tanks. The strikes were brutally repressed. Fr. Popieluszko then denounced the regime through homilies broadcast throughout the country. These preaching enraged the Communists.
The point of no return was reached: the priest was intimidated, watched, hunted down. Defamation campaigns were multiplying against him: “a priest who celebrates Masses of hatred,” “you will be hanged, you will be crucified,” they could read in the press which was at that time in the hands of the Reds.
Refusing to give in to fear and abandon the flock entrusted to him, Jerzy Popieluszko reassured his bishop who wanted to transfer him to Rome, for more security: “I have dedicated myself, I will not retire. I am no longer afraid, I am ready for anything.”
On October 19, 1984, while the priest was reciting the Holy Rosary, he was brutally kidnapped by three agents of the Polish Communist secret services. A night of torture was to follow. His body was found eleven days later, drowned in a reservoir. The autopsy revealed he was thrown into the water still alive. He was 37 years old.