Cardinal central to key era in Poland
Jozef Glemp, Born: December 18th, 1929 Died: January 23rd, 2013.Cardinal Jozef Glemp, who died last Wednesday in Warsaw aged 83, was the spiritual leader of Poland’s Catholics for 25 years.
He helped steer his nation through a historic and relatively peaceful transition from communism to democracy in 1989, but was dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism.
For decades Glemp, as the archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno and the primate of Poland, was both mediator and power broker in the struggle between the communist government and the resistance led by the Solidarity labour union.
His approach was non-confrontational. Through repeated crises, Glemp was an ally, though a fitful one, of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, and a hostile but pragmatic and useful intermediary for Warsaw’s communist leader, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski.
Glemp was named primate by countryman Pope John Paul II in 1981 and became a cardinal in 1983. But he disappointed Poles who wanted a national saviour to fight communism.
Glemp was a quiet, unprepossessing man with a homespun modesty. He listened to subordinates, strived for consensus and sometimes appeared indecisive.
He insisted his mission was the preservation of the church, not the overthrow of communist rule.
In 1988, when labour unrest shook Poland, Glemp named Tadeusz Mazowiecki, his close associate and a Solidarity adviser, to mediate the peace and pave the way for talks on political reforms and national elections.
After the democratic transition, he backed Walesa’s successful presidential campaign in 1990.
Glemp was repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism, notably for his 1989 remarks resisting an agreement to move a Carmelite convent from Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis.
The cardinal did not back down until the Vatican reaffirmed the pope’s determination to move the convent. The issue resurfaced in 1991, when Glemp, touring the United States, encountered more protests and told Jewish leaders that he regretted the pain his statements had caused.
He was primate of Poland until he turned 80 in 2009.
Ordained in 1956, Glemp was a parish priest and teacher before earning doctorates in civil and canon law in Rome. He returned to Poland in 1964. He was bishop of Warmia, a diocese of 1.3 million, from 1979 to 1981.