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Vatican beatifies slain Polish priest

Thousands of Poles have turned out in Warsaw for the beatification of murdered Polish priest Father Jerzy Popieluszko. The 37-year-old was killed in 1984 for his support of the country's anti-communist movement.

A black and white photo of Reverend Jerzy Popieluszko

Reverend Jerzy Popieluszko was a symbol for the anti-communist movement

More than 25 years after he was murdered by the Polish secret police, a priest known for his opposition to the country's communist regime has been beatified in Warsaw.

An estimated 140,000 onlookers flooded the Polish capital's Pilsudski Square to witness Archbishop Angelo Amato, who was representing Pope Benedict XVI, deliver a mass honoring Father Jerzy Popieluszko.

"(Popieluszko) epitomized truth, honesty, love and freedom of conscience, but the system of evil did not accept such values, so he was harassed, tormented, tortured and killed," Amato said during the service.

"The forces of contempt had no respect for human life and cast his body away like an animal's carcass."

The ceremony was also attended by leading Polish officials, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk, as well as presidential candidates Bronislaw Komorowski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Popieluszko was a key figure in Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement, which helped usher in an era of free and democratic elections in the country.

On October 19, 1984, he was kidnapped by the secret police after giving mass in Bydgoszcz, central Poland, and tortured to death. His body was thrown in the Vistula River.

Popieluszko's chauffeur later identified the secret police agents, who were jailed for between 14 and 25 years for his murder. No high-ranking officials were found guilty, however.

The beatification takes Popieluszko one step closer to sainthood.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP/Reuters)

Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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