A rigorous, gentle man of unshakable faith and great spirituality, the protagonist of Polish history under the communist regime. And it was he, it now seems certain, to indicate Cardinal Wojtyla as a possible successor to John Paul I.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The cause of beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, of which today Pope Francis wanted to recognize the "heroic virtues", is an important step.
A strict man, gentle but unshakable, of great spirituality, for Poland the "Primate of the Millennium" is the man who knew how to defend the Church of his country during the period of communist persecution and who made it a living and powerful reality. "The soul of the nation". And it was he, it now seems certain, to indicate Cardinal Wojtyla as a possible successor to John Paul I.
Born in Zuzela (eastern Poland) in 1901, into a poor and numerous family, Wyszynski became a priest at the age of 23, in 1924. During the Nazi occupation, by order of his bishop and because of his weak state of health, he was forced to hide to avoid being interned in a concentration camp. In 1944, during the Warsaw uprising against the Germans, Fr. Wyszynski became a military chaplain.
In 1945, at the end of the war, Poland, which had six million victims - one fifth of the population - was handed over to the Soviet "influence". The Stalinist government aimed to eradicate Christianity from the country.
In 1946 he became bishop of Lublin and from 1948 of Gniezno (primatial see) and Warsaw, Wyszynski attempted the path of peaceful coexistence with the regime. An attitude that seemed to be successful, given that in 1950 there was an agreement by which the government recognized religious freedom. But immediately thereafter oppression against Catholic groups began.
The situation worsened - there were priests arrested and "disappeared" and the state closed or schools, hospitals and newspapers sequestered - to the point that in 1952 Wyszynski was prevented from going to Rome to receive his cardinal’s beret.
In 1953, the government promulgated a law that provided for state control over the appointment of bishops. The episcopate's response was very hard. The cardinal wrote a letter signed by all the bishops, which rejected the principle.
The government reacted by arresting the cardinal on September 25, 1953. For three years he was segregated but not bent. He meditated and prayed, even for his jailers. In his notes from the prison he wrote: "the fear of an apostle is the first ally of his enemies" and "the lack of courage is the beginning of defeat for a bishop".
He was freed as a result of the Poznan uprising of 1956. After the fall of Stalinist Boleslaw Bierut the government was led by Wladislaw Gomulka, father of "national communism". In a logic of internal pacification, he freed the cardinal who, for his part, pushed for conciliation. An attitude that aroused the hostility of a part of the Roman curia, so that when in 1957 Wyszynski could finally go to Rome, he was imposed some days of antechamber, before he could meet Pius XII.
Wyszynski died on May 28, 1981, fifteen days after the attack on John Paul II who, unable to go to celebrate the funeral, wrote a letter "to the Polish nation" also asking for a "profound national meditation. Mediate particularly on the figure of the unforgettable primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of venerated memory, his person, his teaching, his role in such a difficult period of our history". (FP)