Polish cardinal, blind Franciscan who knew each other beatified together

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WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – The Archbishop who led the Catholic Church in Poland through the Communist regime and a blind Franciscan nun who founded one of Europe’s leading centers for the visually impaired have taken one step further towards holiness on September 12.

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said the two “bore witness to a life faithful to the Gospel at all costs – a model of service to a specific person in need, even when no one cares and indifference seems to prevail. “

The Italian cardinal preached at the beatification mass of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who died in 1981, and Mother Elisabeth Rosa Czacka, who died in 1961, at the Church of Divine Providence in Warsaw. 7,000 people were present, including heads of government, bishops from Poland and abroad, as well as two women whose healings were miracles for the advancement of the causes of holiness.

The two new beatified “knew how to fill themselves with strength, endurance and courage”, declared Cardinal Semeraro. “He got personally involved in helping all those who have suffered abuse and limitations in the practice of freedom and the profession of their faith; she, blind among the blind physically and spiritually, has helped all who are abandoned and left on the margins.

Cardinal Semeraro said that Cardinal Wyszynski had defended freedom and challenged an ideology that “dehumanized and estranged people from the fullness of faith”, but was also “built by the faith and perseverance” of Mother Czacka, who had “recognized the signs of God’s will calling” the youth, despite his own blindness.

“It led to precious cooperation, to the frank sharing of intentions and plans – but it gave birth, above all, to a communion of faith, of love for God and for the needy and defenseless human being” , said Cardinal Semeraro.

“The new ‘blessed’ of today have received from this nation the inestimable good of faith and the vitality of a centuries-old tradition of love for God, offering their people in return a lifelong conviction of the primacy of God. God. “

The Mass, broadcast live by Polish state television and relayed to parishes across the country, was concelebrated by more than 600 priests, many of whom were personally ordained by Cardinal Wyszynski. Nuns and teachers from the Mother Czacka center in nearby Laski were also present.

The relics of both were presented by Sister Nulla Lucyna Garlinska, of the Polish Community of Disciples of the Cross, whose cure of thyroid cancer in 1989 was confirmed in 2019 as a miraculous intervention by Blessed Wyszynski, and l 19-year-old student Karolina Gawrych, whose recovery from irreparable brain damage after a playground accident in 2010 was officially attributed to Blessed Czacka’s intercession in October 2020.

In a message from the Angelus at his September 12 Mass in Budapest, Hungary, Pope Francis said the example of the Poles should encourage Catholics “to turn darkness into light with the power of love” .

In Warsaw, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz told Mass that he hoped the two would “intercede with God for us and for the whole homeland”.

Born in Zuzela, Poland on August 3, 1901, Stefan Wyszynski was ordained in 1924 and appointed Bishop of Lublin in 1946. He was appointed Archbishop of Gniezno-Warsaw two years later.

In 1950, he signed a controversial memorandum of understanding with the communist regime; the note promised the church institutional protection for the recognition of the regime’s authority, but was quickly violated by the Communist side.

In September 1953, nine months after being appointed cardinal, Blessed Wyszynski was arrested along with other priests. He was held until October 1956, when a new Communist leader, Wladyslaw Gomulka, asked for his help in calming the public unrest.

Having reached a new agreement with Gomulka allowing freer appointments in the church and some religious teaching, Blessed Wyszynski led the church during the Christian millennium of Poland in 1966 and died on May 28, 1981, during the strikes of Solidarity movement.

Rosa Czacka, born October 22, 1876 to a noble family in Ukraine, lost her sight at the age of 22 following a horseback accident and learned braille. She opened the first Polish center for the blind in 1908 after visiting existing centers in Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland.

At the end of World War I, she founded the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross and the Laski House of the Order for the Blind, a site which also became a center of discussion for Polish students and intellectuals.

After a stroke in 1948, she retired from her role as Mother Superior and lived quietly until her death on May 15, 1961.

The nun first met Father Wyszynski in 1926 in Laski, where he later served as chaplain during World War II while in hiding from the Gestapo. He celebrated the funeral of Blessed Czacka in 1961.

In his homily, Cardinal Semeraro said that Blessed Wyszynski was inspired by a fragment of charred paper blown at Laski during the Warsaw uprising of 1944 against the Nazi occupation, with only three readable words: “You will love it. “.

He added that Saint John Paul II later attributed his election in 1978 to the unbroken faith of Blessed Wyszynski, “who did not shrink from prison and suffering.”

The twin beatifications, postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19, were marked by new postage stamps in Poland, as well as a Senate resolution of September 10 praising Blessed Wyszynski as a “great statesman”, who led the church through “persecution, violence, plunder and injustice.”

President Andrzej Duda, who laid a wreath on the cardinal’s tomb in Warsaw Cathedral before mass, also praised his “great service” to the survival of the Polish nation.

Cardinal Semeraro said that the feast days of Blessed Wyszynski and Czacka would be marked on May 28 and May 19, respectively.

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