Poland's top political leaders on Sunday attended the beatification of two revered figures of the Catholic Church—a cardinal who led resistance to communism and a blind nun who devoted her life to helping others who couldn't see. The celebration of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Mother Elzbieta Roza Czacka was a reminder of the moral authority and unifying power the church once held over Poland; Mass attendance is in decline, with some Poles leaving the church over sex abuse scandals and its ties to the right-wing government. Both are now one step from sainthood. The Mass was held in the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw, the AP reports.
Wyszynski was Poland's primate, or top church leader, from 1948 until his death in 1981. He was under house arrest in the 1950s for his refusal to bend to the communist regime and was considered by some to be the true leader of the nation. His long resistance to communism is credited as a factor that led to the election of a Polish pope, John Paul II, and ultimately the toppling of Poland's communist system in 1989. Czacka, born in 1876 to an aristocratic family, went blind as a young woman and devoted the rest of her life to helping others. The Franciscan nun helped develop a Polish version of Braille and opened a center for the blind near Warsaw.
In the 1950s, when Poland's avowedly atheistic government sought to silence the church, Wyszynski thundered from his pulpit that "Christ has the right to be announced, and we have the right to announce him." Late in his life, Wyszynski became accepted by the authorities as an important force in national life, and members of the regime attended his funeral. In Budapest on Sunday, Pope Francis paid tribute to them both, recalling how Wyszynski was arrested and how Czacka devoted her whole life to others. "May the example of these new Blesseds encourage us to transform darkness into light with the power of love," he said.
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