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Poland remembers

Charles Duguid PenfoldOctober 19, 2009

Poland commemorates Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a symbol of the country's anti-communist resistance movement, 25 years after his death. The popular priest was murdered by the secret police.

Father Jerzy Popieluszko
Father Jerzy Popieluszko spoke out against communismImage: AP

Father Jerzy Popieluszko has been posthumously awarded Poland's highest distinction - the Order of the White Eagle - by President Lech Kaczynski, twenty-five years after his brutal murder.

The priest is considered a symbol of the church's resistance against the communist regime, and his grave in Warsaw is the most popular pilgrimage site in Poland after Czestochowa, the sacred mountain of the black Madonna.

Born in 1947 in northern Poland, the charismatic young priest championed Poland's banned Solidarity trade union, and denounced communism in passionate sermons from the pulpit of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Warsaw.

At the age of just thirty-seven, on October 19, 1984, Popieluszko was kidnapped and assassinated by the country's secret police. His body wasn't discovered until nearly two weeks later in a reservoir west of Warsaw.

Around 250,000 mourners attended Popieluszko's funeral. Four people were charged and served jail time for the crime, but have since been released.

Photos of Father Jerzy Popieluszko were splashed across Polish newspapers on Monday as the country remembered him.

Speaking to Polish radio, the Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz called the death of Father Popieluszko one of the saddest days in the history of the Church.

Editor: Michael Lawton