It was a real masterpiece. Nomination of archbishop Marek Jędraszewski for the office of the metropolitan of Cracow surprised everybody.

Not such old tradition

It usually happens that before nomination into a particularly important bishopric capital, especially Cracow, traditionally connected with cardinal’s dignity, mass media start a stock market of surnames of candidates and speculations are unending. In this case it lasted particularly long, because – as we remember – pope Francis prolonged the ministry of cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz by two years.

It also usually happens that among candidates for a bishop, appearing on media, there is a surname of the one who is going to receive nomination. Whereas on the last journalistic stock market 5-6 surnames were mentioned but there was not the surname of the metropolitan of Łódź.

How it was possible to keep this nomination in secret is indirectly explained by a statement of archbishop Marek Jędraszewski after being nominated for the metropolitan of Cracow. He revealed that pope Francis had passed his will to him personally on 28 November 2016, when the metropolitan of Łódź was in Rome. The Holy Father also decided that the announcement of nomination would take place on 8 December, that is, on the feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary the Virgin.

Everything took place during 10 days, so there was no time for any ‘leakage’.

Another surprising thing, according to mass media, was the fact that despite the longtime tradition somebody outside this archdiocese of Cracow was appointed for the capital of Cracovian bishops. It is forgotten that this tradition is not so old and a lot of successors of St. Stanisław arrived at Wawel from far in the XIX century: from Vienna, from Lvov, and even from Warsaw (in 1815 known Jan Paweł Woronicz arrived to Cracow from the rectory in Powsin near Warsaw).

It is not necessary to make a search so far. Nearly 100 years later the prince Adam Stefan Sapieha, so associated with Cracow, was also a man ‘from outside’.

Hysteria of liberal groups

After announcing the nomination of archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, liberal-leftist groups raised alarm, predicting the end of a dialogue with the Church, if ‘the symbol of parochialism of the Polish Church’ had been appointed for such prestigious episcopate – a known leftist publicist was lamenting. ‘A kind of a slap on face for all those miss a gesture that the Church does not have to be tight, closed and risky’ – another publicist star was accompanying him. ‘It is famous for radical fundamentalism of Radio Maria ideology and scandal statements of openly racist base’ – a professor from Cracow exaggerated traditionally, a full-time critic of the Church. ‘Politics’ contradicted the new metropolitan of Cracow with his predecessors: Wojtyła and Macharski, closely related to the groups of ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’ and ‘Sign’. It was difficult to understand the reasons for which Francis agreed to nomination of the representative of the Catholic-national cultural war with the liberal world to become the successor of those great people of Polish Catholicism. In Łódź archbishop Jędraszewski did not hesitate to involve the local rightist party in it’.

What was the reason for such a hysterical reaction to this nomination among groups unfriendly to the Church? Well, the fact that archbishop Jędraszewski expresses his opinion explicitly and definitely in such issues as homosexual ‘marriages’, gender ideology, abortion, in vitro or ‘black protests’ which he called ‘ terrifying modern manifestation of death civilisation’. It is the reason for which he is considered as a controversial person. However, what is controversial for the liberals, is not for the Catholics treating the teaching of the Church seriously. In these issues a consensus will never be possible.

Archbishop Jędraszewski is surely one of the greatest individualities of the Polish Church. He is also a very clear person. The new metropolitan of Cracow expresses his opinions in the sphere of morality in an uncompromised and brave way, and his words cause a media resonance. One of publicists wrote that archbishop Jędraszewski ‘is not afraid of a clash with narration of political correctness or condemning leftist ideologies’.

The first fighter of the Episcopate

Let’s move further. What is a disaster for people of liberal-leftist opinions, may be something desirable for most Catholics. In the situation of unnoticed confusion, as for the teaching of the Church, when there are attempts to relativize its teaching in the sphere of morality, it happened well that a hierarch will take over the office of one of the most prestigious episcopate in Poland, whose speech is: ‘yes – yes, no – no’ and who represents the explicit vision of the Church.

Surely this fact – besides undoubted intellectual and moral values of the previous metropolitan of Łódź – was at the basis of pope Francis’ decision, who lost a lot in the eyes of liberal-leftist groups in Poland, favourable to him before.

However, not all media with critical attitude to the Church reacted with hysteria or a total criticism. Here the portal, which often criticized archbishop Jędraszewski, wrote after his nomination for the metropolitan of Cracow: ‘The nomination of archbishop Jędraszewski is an interesting decision. Not only because it will deepen publicist disputes on the open/closed Church, not only because issues of a particular social-political provenance in a particular style and a particular direction will be more identified with the ‘voice of the Church in Poland’. First of all, it is interesting because of the person of the nominate who, being under the pressure of a new and more exposed office, will have to find a balance between a bridge builder and a fighter’.

A sensitive humanist

In order to understand archbishop Jędraszewski better, as a man, a Christian man and a priest, one should read his publications. A lot is about his sensitivity, spiritual and intellectual format in the book ‘Roman landscapes’ (‘Pallotinum’, 1996), in which Fr. Jędraszewski, a prominent guide and scholar, presents us with Christian signs of the Eternal City, harmoniously matching the past with the present, showing that history is not a treasury of exhibits. There is not probably a publication in the Polish literature which would give such a thorough and clear explanation about what the Eternal City is for the Christianity, the world and for Poland.

We and a guide are going along the martyrdom road of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul, on campo di Fiori we are experiencing a tragedy of a previous Dominican monk Giordano Bruno burnt there in 1600, who had negated divinity of Christ and the Church. The author, really touched by it, quotes a famous poem by Czesław Miłosz, accusing inquisition (but only it?), and writing it as a warning: ‘Doubting the power of the Gospel, which should be accepted by people willingly, caused violence in the form of tortures and burning stacks. The Gospel which is a message of freedom and love, became the reason of enslavement. This is the inexorable logics of behavior among those who stopped being authentic, really believing witnesses of the Gospel but became its ordinary officials’.

In the book we will also find four excellent essays about John Paul II, which have got a bit of a value of a document because Fr. Jędraszewski as a student of Gregorianum was on the Square of St. Peter on 16 October 1978.

He also recalls himself lunch in the Polish College in Rome just before the conclave when cardinal Wojtyła suggested unexpectedly: ‘What about holding one another’s hands’. Fr. Jędraszewski asks: ‘Did he expect to be elected?’.

His really journalistic report from the Square of St. Peter is the best and the longest Polish testimony of the day of the election of John Paul II and it may be surprising that it is not quoted in any papal biography.

Making the way to the truth

Archbishop Jędraszewski is a prominent philosopher and a scientist who, as a pupil of the primary school asked courageous questions and questioned truths which he had learnt in the communist school. ‘I remember that in relation to the interpretation of history given by Marx and taught in history lessons then, I could not understand why democracy is the achievement of the socialism epoch, if much earlier, democracy had existed during the ancient times of Athens,’ – he said after years.

In the book ‘Roman landscape’, in an excellent essay about St. Justin, a philosopher and a martyr, Fr. Jędraszewski wrote: ‘The work of real love of the truth is not based on mechanical repeating what has already been stated, but on continuous making the way leading to it’. One can think that this is also credo of prof. Jędraszewski, a philosopher.

It is also worth mentioning that Fr. Prof. Jędraszewski belongs to a group of those scientists, who willingly share their knowledge with the young, and didactic work brings them a lot of satisfaction.

In spring 1981 he experienced one of the saddest events in his professor’s work, when he was asked by students of the Economic Academy in Poznań ‘producing communist staff of officials for communist the Polish People’s Republic’, who were fed up with ‘the scientific worldview’, to give lectures from ‘real philosophy’.

‘I agreed to help them. I began with a public discussion on the form of teaching philosophy at universities. It took place a bit later in the biggest aula of the Economic Academy. The meeting was attended by five hundred people, by students in majority. There were also some academic employees (…). Not everybody had a seat. Some attendants were standing, others were sitting on the floor in aisles. Having entered the aula, I realized that I was a spokesman of those young, enthusiastic and hopeful people. And that they did not only mean a kind of a purely academic discussion but something much more important – the future of their university’ – Priest Archbishop mentioned after years.

Fr. Prof. Jędraszewski is a supporter of ‘philosophy of a dialogue’ for which, as he emphasizes, such philosophers of Jewish origin, as Franc Rosensweig, Martin Buber, especially Emmanuel Levinas, whose philosophy was the subject of his PhD thesis and a habilitation thesis, became meritorious. The person of this philosopher made him become closely related to John Paul II , who wrote in a letter of 6 March 1994: ‘Dear Priest Marek! Levinas was brought up on the roots of faith of the Old Testament. His whole philosophy (similarly as philosophy of his other followers, for example, Buber) is rooted there. Thanks to it, it is realistic, personalistic and excellent ethics – and for that reason, it is a comment to ‘Veritatis splendor’ (or rather ‘Veritatis splendor’ can be understood as a comment to Levinas). I thank God that thanks to such philosophers like Levinas he leads us out of a snare of post-enlightenment immanentism’.

Fascinated with John Paul II

Citing this quotation is a good pretext to articulate a very important feature of the new host of the Cracovian residence at 3 Franciszkańska street, which – apart from his personal good manners – will make it easier for him to govern the archdiocese whose particular task is to strengthen and popularize the heritage of John Paul II.

Unlike anybody else, Jędraszewski ‘has digested’ the papal teaching and as a philosopher, he studied philosophy of Karol Wojtyła. In his opinion, key work, allowing for understanding the papal vision of the human being, is the book ‘A person and an act’, whose message John Paul II proclaimed in various statements and documents of theological-pastoral character. ‘Such sentences as: “it is necessary to stand on the guard of one’s conscience”, “freedom is realized through obedience to the truth”, “a person fulfills his vocation through a morally good act”, have their theoretical fundament in the book ‘A person and an act’. Without the knowledge of the book, it is impossible to understand the papal message on the human being. I have often emphasized it during my lectures in philosophy’ – says archbishop Jędraszewski.

The thought of the pope is very important in books by Fr. Jędraszewski. The book ‘Philosophy and a prayer’ is a comment to the encyclical ‘Fides et ratio’. Whereas the book ‘Choosing more freedom. Karol Wojtyła about the man’ is a tribute paid to the anthropological reflection of Cardinal Wojtyła and later Pope John Paul II.

Opposing to waves of atheism

Cardinal Karol Wojtyła and his current successor for the capital of Cracovian bishops knew each other very well from the Roman times, when Fr. Jędraszewski was studying at Gregorianum in the mid of the 70s of the last century. They got dear to each other through their love of philosophy. Cardinal Wojtyła called Fr. Jędraszewski ‘his colleague’ and as a pope he was watching his academic career and read his books.

They corresponded with each other. What was particular for archbishop Jędraszewski was a letter with Christmas wishes in 1995. ‘I put my wishes into the white Christmas wafer and share it with Dear Priest Marek, who will understand the thoughts included in it very well, as he understands them in his articles and reflections. I am grateful to Him for them and I wish him he would still bring close the Pope’s thoughts to people, what the Church wants to tell the world through them’ – the Holy Father wrote. The comment of archbishop Jędraszewski: “I do not have to add that these papal words were commitment and also friendly urgency to refer to and comment the teaching of Karol Wojtyła – John Paul II in my lectures and books’.

Whereas in July 1996 John Paul II wrote to Fr. Jędraszewski: ‘We are beginning our holiday in a few days. Fr. Marek should use it to gain strength and energy anew to oppose to waves of atheism and defend our Homeland against it’. And the later metropolitan of Cracow took these words to his heart deeply.


It is untrue that archbishop Jędraszewski is arriving at ‘the unknown’. He got to know Cracow in the mid of the 80s of the last century, when, being invited by Fr. Prof. Józef Tischner, he used to arrive here to give a monographic lecture devoted to ‘Cahiers pour une morale’ by Jean-Paul Sarter. ‘For the whole term I used to go to Cracow to get to know the whole atmosphere of this city’ – Priest Archbishop mentioned in the article ‘My philosophical road’. When a day after being elected on 17 October 1978 John Paul II visited the Polish College in Rome, Fr. Jędraszewski said: ‘Holy Father, I will have a PhD exam soon!, thinking about his PhD thesis. The Holy Father expressed his reflection and joke, saying: ‘How come? Are you going to have a PhD exam? You are to win!’.

May these last words be a wish also for the new metropolitan of Cracow.


„Niedziela” 05/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: