18 Million Pilgrims – the Phenomenon of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko’s Cult
27 kwietnia 2010 | 10:33 | aw, maj/maz Ⓒ Ⓟ
The cult of Fr. Popiełuszko began virtually the moment news of his abduction was announced. People would come day and night in large numbers to St. Stanislaus Church to keep a vigil.
All this time priests heard confessions, witnessed conversions and saw people returning to the Church, sometimes after many years. On November 3, 1984 from 600,000 to 800,000 faithful gathered at the slain priest’s funeral, a great public manifestation free from political elements.
Within the first months after the funeral pilgrims would come in such large numbers that they had to wait in a line to the tomb for a few hours. They willingly accepted the hardships, irrespective of weather conditions. This was the birth of a new shrine and a cult that has continued until today. Groups of pilgrims arrive at Fr. Popiełuszko’s tomb day by day. So far the place has been visited by 18 million pilgrims (in organised groups alone).
Pilgrims in numbers:– 18 million pilgrims in organised groups– Poles from 7,512 cities and towns – 310,000 foreigners from 134 countries
Praying at the tomb were, for instance:Pope John Paul IICardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVICardinal Karl Lehmann, Chairman of the Conference of German Bishops Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of ParisCardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Chairman of the Conference of Austrian BishopsCardinal William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the FaithUS President George Bushformer UK Prime Minister Margaret ThatcherPresident of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havelformer Italian Prime Minister Giulio AndreottiHungarian Prime Minister Victor OrbanPresident of Georgia Michail SaakashviliPresident of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering
Requests for beatification
The first written request for the inauguration of a beatification process was submitted to Primate Józef Glemp as early as two days after the funeral, on November 5. It contained 178 signatures of staff of the Gynaecological Hospital in Warsaw, where Fr. Popiełuszko was a chaplain. On November 28 another such request, with 456 signatures, was filed by students of the Catholic University of Lublin. Letters were written by people from the entire world. In 1985, one year after the priest’s death, the Secretariat of State of the Holy See recorded a total of 13,940 signed requests for Fr. Popiełuszko’s beatification from 17 countries. Now these requests come in tens of thousands.
Many people pray through the intercession of Fr. Jerzy and a lot receive special graces. The Office of Postulation for Beatifications registered thousands of graces, including miraculous recoveries confirmed by physicians’ reports. People admit that Fr. Jerzy helped them find a job or address a difficult family situation. At Fr. Jerzy’s grave people re-discover their faith, return to the Church and confess their sins after many years. As Fr. Dr. Tomasz Kaczmarek, the Postulator of the beatification process underlines, the number of these graces ‘puts this modest-looking priest side by side such great intercessors to God as John Paul II, Fr. Pio and Mother Teresa of Calcutta’.
The Memory of Fr. Jerzy
73 Polish cities and towns have streets dedicated to Fr. Popiełuszko, 4 others have squares and another 3 roundabouts. Fr. Popiełuszko is a patron of streets in France and Germany and a square commemorating him can be found in New York. Fr. Jerzy is a patron of 23 schools in Poland, one in the USA and one in Sydney, Australia. Countless associations, communities and institutions in Italy, France and Columbia bear his name, as does a hospital in Warsaw’s Bielany.
70 monuments in Poland 8 monuments abroad – USA, England, Norway, France140 commemorative plaques 18 crosses in his honour Halls of FameCenotaphs in 23 Polish towns and cities
Works dedicated to Fr. Jerzy:150 publications in Polish50 publications in other languages50 M.A. theses2 doctoral dissertations 2.6 m websites.
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