Justice to be served in Popieluszko's murder

  • November 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - The arrest of two communist-era secret police agents in Poland for helping to frame and harass   Polish Solidarity hero and martyr Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko is a matter of justice, said the murdered priest’s seminary classmate and roommate Fr. Jan Kolodynski.

“For those who have committed crimes, whether it’s the case of my classmate or over the last 50 years, it’s a question of justice. It’s not a vendetta or vengeance. It’s out of justice,” said Kolodynski, who was ordained with Popieluszko in 1972. Today the Polish priest is pastor of St. Jerome’s parish in Brampton, Ont.

Two agents from the communist-era secret police, the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, were named by Poland’s Institute for National Remembrance for criminal acts “intended to eliminate him (Popieluszko) as a pastor,” according to a report from Warsaw by Jonathan Luxmoore for Ecumenical News International.

Poland’s Commission for Investigating Crimes Against the Polish Nation ordered the arrest of the two former secret police functionaries.

“These functionaries are also accused of participating in a group intending to commit crimes damaging Fr. Popieluszko,” said a statement from the Institute for National Remembrance. The two are alleged to have connived in laying false charges against Popieluszko while attempting to disrupt his pastoral work among circles linked to the democratic opposition in Poland, according to ENI.

A Vatican announcement of Popieluszko’s beatification is widely expected in 2010. On Oct. 19, the 25th anniversary of Popieluszko’s death, he was posthumously awarded Poland’s highest state honour, the White Eagle. A Polish film, Popieluszko: Freedom is Within Us, has recently played to audiences internationally.

Deeper investigation into Popieluszko’s 1984 murder is necessary because the communist-era trials of four Interior Ministry employees were entirely unsatisfactory, said Kolodynski. All four were released from prison early following an amnesty. Former secret police General Wladyslaw Ciaston was acquitted twice, in 1994 and 2002, of charges he ordered the priest killed.

Popieluszko was abducted on his way home to Warsaw after leading a rosary prayer service in the town of Bydgoszcz. Secret police agents gagged and bound him, beat him with clubs and transported him in the trunk of their car. His body was recovered from a reservoir near the Vistula River 10 days later. Popieluszko’s brother had to identify the battered body from a birthmark on the side of his chest.

Popieluszko’s funeral drew as many as one million, and up to 18 million pilgrims have since visited his grave, including Pope John Paul II.

“He was ordinary. He was a good person,” said Kolodynski. “He was a naturally good person. He was a good friend. He was amiable, social and so on. When it came to his convictions, he was very staunch.”

As a student, Popieluszko often organized rosary prayers for his fellow seminarians, said Kolodynski.

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