Top Polish political leaders gathered at a church in Warsaw on Sunday for the beatification of two revered figures of the Catholic Church – a cardinal who led the Polish church’s resistance to communism and a blind nun who dedicated her life to help others who could not see.
The beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Mother Elzbieta Roza Czacka comes at a time of declining church attendance and as some Poles have officially left the church due to scandals of sexual abuse and comfort in the church with a right-wing government that divides.
In a time of increasing secularization and societal divisions, the celebration is a reminder of the moral authority and unifying power that the church once held over the nation.
The mass was presided over by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
It took place in the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw, in the presence of President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, leader of the ruling Jaroslaw Kaczynski party and many faithful.
Wyszynski was the Primate of Poland, or the highest leader of the church, from 1948 until his death in 1981. He was under house arrest in the 1950s for his refusal to bow to the Communist regime and was considered by some as the true leader of the nation. His long resistance to communism is seen as a factor that led to the election of a Polish pope, John Paul II, and ultimately to the overthrow of the system in 1989.
Czacka, born in 1876 to an aristocratic family, went blind in her youth and devoted the rest of her life to helping others. The Franciscan nun helped develop a Polish version of Braille and opened a center for the blind near Warsaw.
Wyszynski led the church through nearly three turbulent decades of often bitter conflict with Communist authorities, later followed by a form of partnership with the secular regime.
Towards the end of his life, Wyszynski had been accepted by the authorities as an important force in national life, and members of the regime attended his funeral.
During the difficult years of the 1950s, when the avowed atheist government sought to silence the church, the tall and thin Wyszynski thundered from his pulpit that “Christ has a right to be announced, and we have a right to be announced. ‘announce’.
Archbishop of Warsaw Kazimierz Nycz recalled Wyszynski as a man who saved the Polish church under communism.
Wyszynski is often called the Millennium Primate in recognition of his achievement in hosting a Millennium Celebration of Christianity in Poland in 1966.
Sunday’s ceremony comes after the Holy See punished a dozen Polish bishops and archbishops for covering up sexual abuse of minors by priests under their authority.
Revelations of abuse and cover-up by the clergy have driven some Poles away from the church and prompted some to withdraw their children from religion classes in schools.
Some Poles are also angry at the church’s proximity to right-wing authorities and a new restriction on abortion. The ruling, which took effect earlier this year, denies women the right to abort fetuses with birth defects.
The Independent Gt