When Communist officials kidnapped and killed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, they likely did not intend to help create a Polish hero, martyr and future saint for the Catholic Church.
Although the Communists had been trying to kill Popiełuszko in ways that would seem like an accident, they captured him 34 years ago today, on Oct. 19, 1984. They beat him to death and threw his body into a river. He was 37 years old.
His crimes: encouraging peaceful resistance to Communism via the radio waves of Radio Free Europe, and working as chaplain to the workers of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and trade union, which was known for its opposition to Communism.
Popiełuszko was born on Sept. 14, 1947 to a farming family in Okopy, a village in eastern Poland bordering modern-day Ukraine. While World War II had ended, the regime of the Communist Party had taken place of the Nazis and ruled Poland at the time.
As a young man, Popiełuszko served his required time in the army before completing seminary studies and becoming a priest for the Archdiocese of Warsaw. He was ordained on May 28, 1972 at the age of 24.
As a priest in Warsaw, Popiełuszko served in both regular and student parishes. He became known for his steadfast, non-violent resistance to Communism, about which he spoke frequently in his homilies, which were broadcast on Radio Free Europe.
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