The "Iron Primate" valiantly opposed communism and gave St. John Paul II an inspiring example to imitate.
After the Nazi Occupation in Poland, a Soviet-run government took control and imposed its own communist rule.
During the years of 1945-1989, Poland’s Catholics suffered greatly from the atheistic regime, but not without opposition.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was strongly opposed to the communist agenda and did all that he could to fight for Polish freedom.
He was the “Primate of Poland,” which was a term used to denote the leading bishop of the country. Because of his strong opposition to communism, even in the face of persecution, he was later dubbed the “Iron Primate.” Wyszyński was imprisoned for 3 years, from 1953-1956, for his resistance.
Throughout his life Wyszyński was devoted to the Virgin Mary and entrusted all his sufferings to her. His example was an inspiration to St. John Paul II, who credited him as a playing a vital role in his pontificate.
John Paul II said this clearly in a letter to the Polish people on the day after his election on October 23, 1978.
Venerable and beloved Cardinal Primate, allow me to tell you just what I think. This Polish pope, who today, full of fear of God, but also of trust, is beginning a new pontificate, would not be on Peter’s chair were it not for your faith which did not retreat before prison and suffering. Were it not for your heroic hope, your unlimited trust in the Mother of the Church! Were it not for Jasna Gora, and the whole period of the history of the Church in our country, together with your ministry as Bishop and Primate!
It was Wyszyński’s example of faith that bolstered John Paul II’s faith, paving the way to his election as pope.
John Paul II later pointed to Wyszyński as a “keystone” of the Church in Poland.
For the Cardinal Primate has become a special keystone of that unity. A keystone is what forms the arch, what reflects the strength of the foundations of the building. The Cardinal Primate shows the strength of the foundation of the Church, which is Jesus Christ. This is what his strength consists of. The Cardinal Primate as been teaching for over thirty years that he owes this strength to Mary, the Mother of Christ. We all know well that it is possible, thanks to Mary, to make the strength of the foundation that is Christ shine out, and effectively to become a keystone of the Church.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński died on May 28, 1981, shortly after the failed assassination attempt on John Paul II on May 13, 1981. His example of holiness has now been officially recognized by the Catholic Church with his beatification on September 12, 2021.