Circumstances and the course of imprisonment of cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, archbishop metropolitan of Gniezno and Warsaw, the primate of Poland, 25 September 1953



Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński said: ‘I cannot give in this decision and I will not leave this home voluntarily’. What were other circumstances of arresting the primate Wyszyński? It turns out that the political party and state apparatus was not idle

Priest Stefan Wyszyński, appointed a bishop of Lublin in 1946, and in 1949 taken to the archbishop capitals in Gniezno and Warsaw and appointed the primate of Poland, was aware of the existing situation of the appearing persecuting communism. ‘I arrived in Warsaw – we read in ‘Prison notes’- with an outline of a program’ (p.19) ‘(…) I started taming bishops with the outline of my program. I wanted to establish a conciliation body between the Episcopate and the government (…)’. The works began in July 1949. ‘At the beginning this was and is still my opinion, that Poland and the Holy Church with it, have lost too much blood during the Nazis invasion, to allow for its further loss now’ (p. 20). ‘So, would the ‘Agreement’ be intended to play a role of a bumper soothing the existing conflict?’ (p. 21).

Agreement of the Episcopate with the government of the People’s Polish Republic

‘To sum up – all these motifs, presented at the Episcopal Conference in Cracow (in March 1950), in the presence of cardinal Sapieha, led to a decision about aiming at an ‘Agreement’ (…)’. It was signed on 14 April 1950. ‘Since then it has become an argument in the hands of the Episcopate in the fight for the right of the Church. It was an only argument, because the government did not respect the Constitution any more, broke the Concordat, did not recognize the Code of Canonic Law’ (p.25).

Under this agreement the Episcopate committed to, among the others, applying consequences towards priests participating in anti – national actions, to being neutral in issues connected with village collectivization, to teaching believers to respect established law and the state authority.

Whereas, the government committed to maintain religion education at schools, running pastoral ministry in the army, prisons and hospitals, allowed for editing Catholic newspapers and education in seminaries and activity of convent houses. In essential matters, the Catholic Church committed to run the Polish raison d’etat, whereas the government acknowledged prerogatives of the Pope.

‘Non possumus’

Unfortunately, despite the contracted ‘Agreement’, the situation of the Catholic Church did not undergo the basic improvement in mutual relations with the state. The Church was forced to systematic taking an attitude in defence of its rights.

On 12 September 1950, the primate Stefan Wyszyński wrote a letter to president Bolesław Bierut, in order to present a general analysis and situation of the Church in Poland, showing many actions of the state administration of that time, which brought harm to the Church and were not included within the mutually decided ‘Agreement’.

The special attention should be given to the memorial of the primate Stefan Wyszyński and the secretary of the polish Episcopate bishop Zygmunt Choromański to the chairman of the Council of Ministers Bolesław Bierut of 8 May 1953 (known under the name ‘Non possumus’): ‘After a longer silence, in terms of the general situation of the Catholic Church in Poland, the Episcopate is taking a voice at the special moment. At the moment when the last voices of the Catholic press are fading and getting silent, when there was a case which seems to close the period begun by the ‘Agreement’ made on 14 April 1950 between the Episcopate and the government of Poland, and opens a new period, which is unequally difficult and complex’.

Five months later, on 24 September, the primate Stefan Wyszyński wrote a letter to the Ministers' Council of the Polish People's Republic, in which he expressed the attitude of the polish Episcopate about the course of the finished process of bishop Czesław Kaczmarek – an Ordinary of the diocese of Kielce, after nearly three years of bestial persecution of the sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment on 22 September 1953. In the letter he emphasized: 'The statement that the Holy See, the Holy Father and Vatican gave political directives to the Polish Episcopate, does not match with the truth'. (…) The attempt to place the Episcopate on the side of the enemies of Poland, during the judicial process and the procurator's speech are the biggest harm'.

In response to the attitude of the Primate, expressed in the aforementioned letters, there were indications given to party committees:

1. fight politically and ideologically against the attitude included in the memorial of Wyszyński, as a platform of an open fight against People's Poland and the national betrayal – a platform of thinkers, adventurers and destroyers of the national unity;

2. break the resistance of some bishops towards directives of the Polish People's authority and their sabotage about the decree of 9 II 1953 based on an actual allowing priests to stay on their posts, whom the authorities had ordered to dismiss;

3. use contradictions within clergy and the increase of emotions opposing the Episcopate.

A radical reaction

The above-presented background of the mutual relations the State – the Church allows to understand events directly preceding arresting and depraving the primate Stefan Wyszyński of freedom.

On 23 September 1953 there was a meeting no. 261 of the Secretariat of the Political Office composed of: the chairman of Ministers' Council and the First Secretary of the Communist Party Bolesław Bierut, a member of the Political Office of the Communist Party KC PZPR for Ministry of Public Safety, a vice-president of Ministers' Council and a member of the Political Office of the Communist Party KC PZPR Józef Cyrankiewicz and 6 other members of the Secretariat. A protocol stated: 'In relation to the information of the comrade Tomasz (Bolesław Bierut) about the behaviour of the Episcopate after the process of bishop Kaczmarek and others, the Secretariat accepted the request for prohibiting the archbishop Wyszyński in terms of his generally hostile attitude, to perform the functions connected with his previous ecclesiastical attitudes and determined directives of further relations with the Episcopate. The secretariat also pointed out to the necessity of starting a mass action in the section of democratic priests and intellectualists.

This decision was for the executive power a signal to start further actions. The consequence of this attitude was making a decision on 24 September 1953 by the Bureau of the Polish People's Republic government composed of: Hilary Hinc as the chairman and Józef Cyrankiewicz and 4 other members, about preventive means against further abuse of functions held by archbishop Stefan Wyszyński: Resolution of the Government Bureau no 700/53 was passed to the Public Safety Minister – Stanisław Radkiewicz for implementation, who in the order no 041 of 25 September 1953 No – AA – 228/53 addressed to Karol Więckowski a director of the Department XI of the Public Safety Ministry (responsible for the fight against the Church) stated: 'In agreement with the General Procurator of the Polish People's Republic and a Director of the Office for Religions, I recommend to give the Resolution of the Government Bureau of 24 September 1953 to Fr. Archbishop Stefan Wyszyński, and control it according to the instruction given by me'.

Executing the arrest

In order to implement the decisions made in the Public Safety Ministry, a 'plan of operation' was elaborated. In order to do this task, a few groups of functionaries were designated:

a) A group of 4 people with the comrade (Antonim) Bida will go directly to the office of the primate Stefan Wyszyński, where it will give him the decision of the government and will execute the actions. This group will be composed of Karol Więckowski, Wacław Olech, Kazimierz Opara, Stanisław Puchała;

b) A while after the group of 4 people: captain Roman Masny – a director, Zygmunt Jędrys, Edward Popławski, Zbigniew Pikierski and the investigating officer Lisowski will enter the rooms occupied by bishop Antoni Baraniak, where he will arrest him and will execute on-site inspection.

c) Just after workers of the other groups, individually, enter the building, they will go to particular floors;

d) A group protecting the building from outside will take its post together with the entrance of the first group into the building.

In the late afternoon, on 25 September 1953, 17 functionaries of the Public Safety Ministry started observation of the building of the Primate.

As the aforementioned plan of operation suggested, after the return of the primate Wyszyński to Miodowa Street from his pronouncement which took place in the church of St. Anna in Warsaw, functionaries assigned for the action were supposed to act. The plan of the operation also suggested that the realization of arresting the Primate was to be supported by an agent 'Kowalski', a person being in the building in Miodowa Street at that time. In the course of the investigation it was impossible to determine the personal data of the agent. In the late evening bishop Antoni Baraniak, being in a garden, noticed some people jumping over a wall, who arrested him, stormed into the building, took him onto the first floor and sat him in the office with the prohibition of moving.

After 9.30 pm, when the Primate returned from the church of St. Anna, he was informed that some men were knocking on the door. When they entered the courtyard, a dog Baca bit one of the functionaries. The Primate quickly took care of the wounded. In 'Prison notes' (p.12-13) the Primate wrote: 'Bishop Baraniak was brought; three men entered from the front gate and we all went to the Hall of Popes. (…) One of the men (Karol Więckowski) took off a coat, took out a letter from his briefcase and, having opened it, gave the document involving the decision of the government from yesterday'. The text was the following:

'Warsaw 25 September 1953


Polish People's Republic of 25 September 1953

No 700/53

About preventive means against further abuse of the functions held by archbishop Stefan Wyszyński.

On the basis of resolutions of the Polish People's Republic about the 'abuse of conscience and religion freedom for purposes aimed against the welfare of the Polish People's Republic' (art. 7 p. 3), as well as assumptions of the decree of 9 February 1953 and the Ordinance of the Chairman of the Ministers' Council about implementing the Decree concerning giving ecclesiastical positions to clergy (§ 1).

The Government Office decides: because of persistent abuse of his ecclesiastical functions and positions by archbishop Stefan Wyszyński, which is aimed against the welfare of the Polish People's Republic, protecting and patronizing actions breaching the binding acts and provisions of state authorities, and also those who raise anxiety and are aimed against the unity of the Polish society in the view of attempts about the inviolability of borders of the Polish People's Republic.

• prohibit archbishop Stefan Wyszyński to perform functions resulting from ecclesiastical offices held by him.

The purpose of prevention from further harms resulting from the above-mentioned activity of archbishop Stefan Wyszyński is recommending suitable state organs to control his immediate leaving the city of Warsaw and living in an assigned monastery without the right to leave the monastery till a new regulation of the authorities.

Certified by


The primate said: 'I cannot give in this decision and I will not leave this home voluntarily. A clerk asked to sign the letter that I had read it. On the bottom of the letter I wrote with a fountain-pen given to me: 'I read' and I wrote my initials . I went upstairs and there were a few men with me. The house was full of people and downstairs and outside the chapel. In the private flat I was advised to take what is necessary with me. I stated that I was not going to take anything. (…) To the attempts of persuasion I retry a protest against the invasion into my house.(...) Sister Maksencja comes in order to insist. I answer: 'Sister, I am not taking anything. I came as a poor man to this house and I will leave it as a poor man'. (…) Bishop Baraniak was brought here. I am asked: 'Who is the host here?' I answer : 'I do not know whom you are taking. The host during my absence is always bishop Baraniak'. (p.13) 'Besides – as sources of the Safety Office inform, he added – please, inform bishops that I will never waive my positions voluntarily. If I am sued, I do not want any attorney because I will defend myself on my own and I am ready to be responsible for my actions . Please, tell my relatives not to cry about me'. Because Wyszyński did not want to take anything with him, saying that he had come to the post of the primate with bare hands and this all is not with his help, we packed all necessary things with the help of sisters. Before leaving the building, Wyszyński had asked to let him enter the chapel for a while, so that he could pray, giving a word that he would come out. He was praying for 3 minutes at the open door and he left saying that he was ready to go, but he would not voluntarily leave the building. Hearing our answer that not because of his age and seriousness it is not proper to lead him out holding his hands, he went downstairs on his own and got into a car. Clerks had received an instruction earlier to behave towards the Primate politely and with good manners. The cars drove away from the square at 0.50. 'The car drove into Długa street: we were surrounded by 6 others. The whole team set off to the palace of Mostowscy onto the line W-Z through the Śląsko-Dąbrowski bridge and Zygmuntowska street to Jabłonna (see p. 13). Not earlier than after the arrival, the on-site inspection was done' (see p.13-14).

The purpose of the escapade was the monastery of the Capuchin Minor Brothers in Rywałd Królewski. The date of 28 September 1953 was described by the cardinal Wyszyński in the following way: 'So, I begin the life of a prisoner. This word cannot be used, because people surrounding me are protesting: this is not a prison. Despite that, nearly 20 people as civilians, are watching over me ' (p. 26).

This term of imprisonment was prolonged by over three years. After the arrest of cardinal Wyszyński, the same evening bishop Baraniak was arrested and a few bags of acts were robbed from the Secretariat of the Primate, which were given back but it is not certain whether all of them.

There is a puzzling note written on 25 September 1956 on the third anniversary of imprisonment: 'Omnia bene fecisti'....After three years of my imprisonment, I think this conclusion as the final one. I would have never waived these three years and I would not remove these three years from my 'curriculum'...However, it is good that they passed in the prison, than in Miodowa street' (p. 250-251). The above words prove the maturation of the Primate of Millennium to holiness.


"Niedziela" 38/2013

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