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Cardinal Glemp, Poland’s primate for nearly 3 decades, dead at 83

January 24, 2013

Cardinal Józef Glemp, who served as Archbishop of Warsaw from 1981 to 2006 and Primate of Poland until 2009, has died at the age of lung cancer at the age of 83.

Born in 1929 in Inowroclaw, now a city of 78,000 in north-central Poland, Cardinal Glemp was a slave-laborer to the Nazis during World War II. Ordained to the priesthood in 1956, he was appointed Bishop of Warmia (Ermland) by Blessed John Paul II in 1979. Two years later, the Pontiff named the canon lawyer Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, succeeding the famed Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who had served as Primate since 1948.

In Witness to Hope, his biography of Blessed John Paul II, George Weigel wrote that “the new archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw was a dedicated churchman and a Polish patriot. But his selection as Primate would not be a success--for himself, for the Church in Poland, or for the man who made the appointment.” Seeking to be a force for moderation during the struggle in the 1980s between the Solidarity trade union and the Communist regime, Cardinal Glemp, wrote Weigel, clashed with the young Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest murdered by the regime who was beatified as a martyr in 2010. He also faced charges of anti-Semitism during a dispute over the presence of Carmelite nuns at the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz.

However, Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended the late Polish prelate in a message of condolence, sent to his successor in Warsaw, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz. “Personally, I always appreciated his sincere goodness, his simplicity, his openness, and his cordial dedication to the cause of the Church in Poland and in the world,” the Pope said. He praised Cardinal Glemp as “an apostle of unity against division, of harmony in the face of confrontation, of the building of a happy future based on the past joyous and sorrowful experiences of the Church and the nation.”

Recognizing the criticism that Cardinal Glemp had faced, especially after his retirement, the Pope wrote: "The last stage of his life was tried by suffering, which he endured with a serenity of spirit. Even in this test he remained a witness to trusting in the goodness and love of omnipotent God."


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