WARSAW (Reuters) – A Polish cardinal persecuted by communist authorities during the Cold War and a nun dedicated to helping the blind took a step towards sainthood on Sunday when they were beatified.
Though shaken by child abuse scandals, the Catholic Church remains enormously important in Poland and was seen by many as a voice for freedom during decades of communist rule up to 1989.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski was placed under house arrest from 1953-1956 for refusing to punish priests who opposed the government. When named cardinal by Pope Pius XII, he was not allowed to travel to Rome for formal investiture for five years.
Mother Elzbieta Roza Czacka lost her sight at the age of 22, but saw her disability as a sign from God and dedicated her life to helping others without sight and the “spiritually blind”.
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In 1908, she opened the first small institutions for blind children and adults in Warsaw and in 1910 founded the Society for the Care of the Blind. She also founded the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross.
The Beatification Mass took place at the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw, attended by President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as well as crowds of faithful who gathered outside.
During a visit to Hungary on Sunday, Pope Francis lauded Wyszynski as a “herald of freedom and human dignity”, and praised Czacka’s life-long devotion to the blind.
“May the example of these new Blesseds encourage us to transform darkness into light with the power of love,” he said during a Mass.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Dabrowska and Anna Koper; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
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