Priest and Martyr (1947-1984)
+ Jerzy was born to a family of farmers in Okopy, Poland.
+ Ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Warsaw in 1972, he became a vocal opponent of the Communist regime in Poland. He was especially known for his work with the anti-Communist Solidarity Movement.
+ Although martial law was declared in Poland in an effort to suppress movements opposed to the Communist government, the Church maintained its defiance and Father Jerzy’s sermons were broadcast over the radio. He ignored threats made against him by the secret police.
+ Arrested in 1983 on trumped-up charges that were later dropped, he became the target of several assassination attempts and he was eventually kidnapped by the secret police on October 19, 1984, and was beaten to death sometime on October 19 or 20.
+ More than 250,000 people attended the priest’s funeral and the rock that was used to strike the fatal blow is among relics of modern-day martyrs enshrined in St. Bartholomew’s Basilica on Tiber Island in Rome.
+ Father Jerzy Popielouszko was beatified as a martyr in 2010.
In 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II ordered that the Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome become the home of several memorials dedicated to martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. This has become an important ecumenical center in Rome and those honored include members of several different Christian churches and ecclesial communions. Included among the relics now enshrined in the basilica is the missal that Blessed Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was using during the Mass at which he was killed in 1980.
“Truth never changes. It can never be destroyed by any decision or legal act. Telling the Truth with courage is a way leading directly to freedom. A man who tells the Truth is a free man despite external slavery, imprisonment, or custody.”—Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko
Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Jerzy to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For One Martyr)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.Access our archives of daily saint biographies here