Pope John Paul II wrote in his testament: ‘Standing at the threshold of the third millennium ‘in medio Ecclesiae’, I want to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit once again for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, whose debtor I feel with the whole Church, especially the Episcopate. I am sure that generations will have this wealth for a long time, which this Council of the XX century gave us. As a bishop, who participated in the event of the Vatican Council from the first to the last day, I want to entrust this great heritage to everybody who are and will be called for its realization in the future. Whereas, I thank the Eternal Pastor that he allowed me serve in this great matter during all the years of my pontificate’.

The Father of the Second Vatican Council

‘From the first to the last day’ of the debates of the Second Vatican Council were attended by the primate of Poland cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. His interest in the matters of the Vatican Council, and, first of all, in his activity throughout the process of debates is presented in the interesting book entitled: ‘Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland’, the Father of the Second Vatican Council 1962 – 1965. A selection of documents’ (p. 414).The book published by a famous Polish historian of the Church – Fr. prof. dr. hab. Stanisław Willk SDB (the former rector of the Catholic University of Lublin of John Paul II) and Anna Wójcik (a worker of the Primate’s Institute of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński), came out in 2013 published by the Publishing House of the Catholic University of Lublin. The work deserves recognition because one feels a lack of thorough elaborations in the ecclesiastical historiography, which would say about the contribution of particular members of the Polish Episcopate in the works of the Vaticanum II. That is true that this problem referring to cardinal Wyszyńki was raised earlier (cardinal K. Wojtyła, Fr. M. Rola, P. Rain), but only this edition of the documents throws a definite light onto this issue. Here it is worth citing the words of Fr. Prof. Wilk said in July this year during a presentation of this book in the University Library of the Catholic University of Lublin: ‘The Primate Wyszyński was the fore-ground person of the Polish Episcopate during debates of the Vatican Council, which is rarely mentioned. It was him who decided about a program of pronouncements and which bishop was supposed to present a particular issue during the debates’.

The contents of the book

The whole book is opened by the ‘Introductory Word’ of the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference archbishop Józef Michalik, who emphasized that ‘this book is very needed today not only because it breaks many myths about the Second Vatican Council, permanently fixed by the so-called media vision of this Vatican Council, but also because it shows the truth about the life of the Universal Church and the Church in Poland from before fifty years’. An important part of this book are texts entitled ‘From editors’ and ‘Introduction’. The first one of them concerns applied methodological solutions, the latter one – fulfills a task of a historical background, presenting an outline of preparations and the process of the Vatican Council debates with a particular consideration of activity of cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in them (participation in the preparatory phase, ministry in the Secretariat and the Bureau of the Vatican Council, pronouncements in the Aula of the Vatican Council and the person of the Cardinal as the Father of the Vatican Council and the Primate of Poland).

On the basis of these findings, 33 documents were edited, among which the last one is a selection of personal notes of cardinal Wyszyński from the years of 1959-65. All these documents were written by the Primate of Poland and have a direct relation with the works of the Second Vatican Council. The critical edition of particular documents has a characteristic structure. First there is a title of a document and place and date of its presentation. Next there is a short description of the document (with the findings of the circumstances of its appearance) and a bibliographic note of its original printing. Then in such a set perspective original texts of the documents ‘in extenso’ (Latin language) were presented, and then their translations in the Polish language. The translation of the texts was done by archbishop Edmund Piszcz and Fr. Prof. Zygmunt Perz SJ.

Annexes have a special significance, among which the last one (the eight) distinguishes itself, called ‘A chronology of speeches of the Polish Fathers of the Vatican Council and a list of animadversions given by them’. Then whole book consists of ‘A list of abbreviations’, Bibliography’, Index of people’ and photographs.

A valuable source of historical investigations

This book is an extremely worth source for historical investigations about the contribution of Polish ecclesiastical hierarchs in the works of the Second Vatican Council. It presents an unusual contribution of the Primate of Poland into the Vatican Council work, who appears as a prominent philosopher in theology and as a reformer devoted to the Catholic Church. The values of this work are raised by the applied critical apparatus which makes this book more open to a wide group of readers and those who do not only deal with history every day but also those who want to get to know the leading thoughts of the Vatican Council renewal. This work deserves recognition. As one of the works of this kind, it is an example for similar works and can also raise inspiration for further scientific investigations about the contribution of other members of the Polish Episcopate in preparations and debates of the Vaticanum II.


"Niedziela" 44/2013

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