Rome Newsroom, (CNA) – Events are taking place across Poland Friday marking the 40th anniversary of the death of a cardinal who led the Church defiantly during the darkest years of communism.
Catholics are marking the May 28 anniversary with Masses, exhibitions, and concerts dedicated to Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, will celebrate a live-streamed Mass in honor of Wyszyński at Gniezno Cathedral, central-western Poland, at 6 p.m. local time.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, will offer a live-streamed Mass at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Archcathedral in the capital, Warsaw.
Wyszyński, the archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw from 1948 to 1981, is credited with helping to preserve and strengthen Christianity in Poland after communists seized power following the Second World War.
In 1953, he was placed under house arrest for three years for refusing to punish priests active in the Polish resistance against communism.
He is known as the “Primate of the Millennium” because as Primate of Poland he oversaw a nine-year program of preparation culminating in a nationwide celebration of the millennium of Poland’s baptism in 1966.
He also helped to secure the approval of Karol Wojtyła as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, which ultimately led to Wojtyła’s election as Pope John Paul II in 1978.
Wyszyński died May 28, 1981. Unable to attend the cardinal’s funeral after suffering an assassination attempt, John Paul II wrote in a letter to the people of Poland, “Meditate particularly on the figure of the unforgettable primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński of venerated memory, his person, his teaching, his role in such a difficult period of our history.”
Jan Maria Jackowski, a former photojournalist who is now a Polish senator, recalled that hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the cardinal’s funeral.
“Cardinal Wyszyński was regarded both as a religious and moral leader and a great social authority. He led his homeland and the Church in Poland through the black night of communism with its state atheism and violation of fundamental human rights,” he said, according to a press statement from the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński.
The museum in Warsaw has prepared an outdoor exhibition of previously unpublished photos of the funeral, in cooperation with the National Center for Culture.
Museum director Piotr Dmitrowicz said: “Jan Maria Jackowski, then a photojournalist for Tygodnik Solidarność, managed to capture the unity, solidarity, and closeness of people who were united by one thing: the feeling that they had lost someone close to them.”
The exhibition will be on display in front of the Kordegarda Gallery on Warsaw’s Krakowskie Przedmieście until June 8.
The Polish parliament has declared 2021 the Year of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.