Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko in Florida in this undated photo. Popieluszko was a signifcant religious figure in the Polish Solidarity movement of the 1980s. Photo courtesy of Carmel Communications

Film brings Polish priest’s legacy to life

By  James Mangaliman, Youth Speak News
  • October 24, 2014

Messenger of the Truth is a timeless lesson of humankind’s potential to stand up for what is right in the name of faith, no matter how many times one has been pushed down.

This film narrated by actor Martin Sheen, takes us back to the Solidarity Movement of 1980s Poland and highlights the role of Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko in the quest for workers’ rights under the communist regime.

Popieluszko, who was murdered by Polish secret police Oct. 19, 1984 for his actions, was the epitome of faith and devotion and his inspirational story of perseverance during times of repression is the focus of Gary Chartrand’s award-winning documentary.

Messenger of the Truth is a story filled with the message of hope through times of repression, a single man’s courage at the hands of a repressive and murderous regime and a gripping tale that captures the Catholic social teaching of Solidarity. It focuses on religious leadership and digs into the conflict between tyrannical authority and the human need for freedom and justice. At its heart is a central message of truth, a heartfelt and courageous lesson taught by the late Popieluszko.

Though many are familiar with Solidarity leader and future Polish president Lech Walesa’s efforts against a communist regime that enforced poor working conditions and salaries and a low standard of living on workers, few are aware of the moving endeavours under-taken by Popieluszko to fight the same battle.

The film traces back to the Solidarity movement, in which Popieluszko began as a simple chaplain for the Warsaw Steel Mill workers who were protesting for the right to better working conditions and wages. As the movement’s popularity and strength grew, Popieluszko celebrated large Masses conveying his message of truth against the subjugated people of Poland. He taught that in spite of their subjugation at the hands of the communist regime, the people should never forget that they were born with inherent human rights and dignities. However, as the prominence of the Church, a symbol of freedom and justice, grew, so too did threats from the communist regime.

“He touched people’s souls by talking about the truth, and people yearn for the truth,” said Chartrand.

He told Youth Speak News that Popieluszko has had a powerful impact on the people of Poland as well as himself, teaching them about the strength that comes from faith in God, and the importance of understanding one’s self worth.

Chartrand first learned about Popieluszko after taking shelter from the rain in the museum of a church in Poland. A year later, Chartrand’s pastor introduced him to two other people interested in Popieluszko’s story.

“It was more than just a coincidence,” he said.

His journey of retelling Popieluszko’s story stemmed from his desire to let other people experience the power of truth that hit him that night he learned about this man of faith.

Popieluszko is not as popular as other activists in the history books, such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa, who stood their ground against adversity and discouragement. However, his story is just as powerful.

The power in Messenger of the Truth lies within its moving depiction of Popieluszko, as well as the stunning visuals and audio recordings included in the documentary. The clear video clips of the Fatherland Masses, in which Popieluszko proclaimed the message of Solidarity, show the extent to which his message of hope and faith empowered the subjugated people; thousands of Poles filled the church and spilled onto the streets to listen to his sermons. Messenger of the Truth brings you closer to the experience with interspersed recordings of Popieluszko’s sermons and firsthand commentary from members of Solidarity.

Messenger of the Truth is a must watch documentary for Catholics, and all those who stand up for the rights of their brothers and sisters. It is a story that recounts what essentially was a crack in the communist system, which paved the way for the downfall of communist Europe and an end to the Cold War. It emphasizes that repressive governments may crush the human spirit, however, we must never give in.

In the words of Popieluszko, “We have to be ourselves. No system can invalidate our duties.”

Messenger of the Truth is now available on iTunes. For information, visit messengerofthetruth.com

(Mangaliman, 18, is a first-year Humanities student at the University of Toronto.) 

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

You posted a photo supposedly of Fr Popieluszko in Florida. Are you sure it's not just a man who looks like Fr Popieluszko? How and why would Fr Popieluszko have gone to Florida? The suntan and the trendy clothes are out of character

Fiona Cullen
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