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Controversial stalwart of communist era Church in Poland dead at 83


VATICAN CITY (CNS): Jozef Cardinal Glemp, the former bishop of Warsaw, who was primate of the Catholic Church in Poland during the final years of communism and during the restoration of democracy, died on January 23 at the age of 83 in a Warsaw hospital, Vatican Radio reported. He had undergone surgery almost a year ago as part of his treatment for lung cancer. 

In a telegramme released by the Vatican on January 24, Pope Benedict XVI said the cardinal’s last days were “marked by a suffering that he endured with a serenity of spirit.” 

Offering his condolences to Polish Catholics, the pope said Cardinal Glemp had a “profound love for God and for man, which was his light, inspiration and strength in the difficult ministry of guiding the Church at a time when significant social and political transformations were taking place in Poland and Europe.” 

Pope Benedict wrote, “Personally, I always appreciated his sincere goodness, his simplicity, his openness and his dedication to the cause of the Church in Poland and in the world. That is how he will remain in my memory and in my prayer.” 

The cardinal was a controversial figure in Poland during the communist regime’s imposition of martial law in the early 1980s. While he had urged Catholics not to resist the clampdown, he continued to support the right of priests to speak out in defence of freedom and respect for human rights. 

The cardinal was just a young boy when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and sent him as a forced labourer to the wheat fields of the Reich. 

The dual experience of Nazism and communism bred in him a deep-seated wariness toward both west and east. It contributed to Cardinal Glemp’s vision of the Catholic Church as protector of the common man against the powerful. 

Born on 18 December 1929, in the western town of Inowroclaw, he enrolled at the seminary in Gniezno in 1950 and was ordained a priest six years later. He was sent to study in Rome, where he earned civil and canon law degrees from the Pontifical Lateran and Gregorian universities during the Second Vatican Council. 

In 1967, he became secretary to Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski in Warsaw. Ordained bishop of Warmia in 1979, he held the post for just two years until, to the surprise of many, he was named to succeed Cardinal Wyszynski in the archdioceses of Warsaw and Gniezno.....


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