Cardinal Jozef Glemp marked the anniversary today of the murder of dissident priest Jerzy Popieluszko by leading thousands of Poles in a memorial mass at the Warsaw church where the priest's flower-bedecked grave has become a popular shrine.
In the high point of a week of services at the Church of St. Stanislaw Kostka, Glemp addressed a crowd of more than 5,000 persons who crammed into the twin-steepled building and gathered in a cold drizzle outside.
"The life of Father Jerzy, which was ended by crime, will bear fruit after his death in well-organized parish work," the primate said in a carefully balanced description of the social movement that has grown up around Popieluszko's memory.
The memorial mass was attended by Lech Walesa and other national leaders of the outlawed trade union Solidarity as well as U.S. Charge d'Affaires John Davis, the top-ranking American diplomat in Poland. Thousands of pilgrims from around the country are due to arrive here Saturday for services scheduled to continue through the weekend.
Popieluszko, an aggressive opponent of Poland's Communist government, was abducted and killed last Oct. 19, sparking an outpouring of national protest and causing tension in church-state relations that still has not been repaired fully.
Three security officers convicted of killing the priest earlier this year were sentenced to prison terms of between 14 and 25 years, and their superior in the Interior Ministry was given a 25-year sentence.
National outrage over the crime has now settled into an enduring movement reflected in monthly "masses for the fatherland" held at St. Stanislaw's Church -- a tradition begun by Popieluszko -- and visits by about 2 million people to his elaborately maintained grave site.
Church officials said tonight that more than 1,800 wreaths and 800 banners had been brought to the grave, now raised and covered with a slab of dark marble. Burning candles usually surround the grave, and a corner of the church nave is filled with artworks donated by schoolchildren, factory workers and Roman Catholic parishes from as far away as Moscow.
Government authorities, who publicly vilified Popieluszko during his lifetime, clearly have been discomfited by the posthumous tributes, which they describe as a prime example of the use of the church for opposition political activity. No mention of the anniversary has appeared in the government-controlled media this week, and an announcement in an official Catholic publication of Glemp's appearance was partially censored.
In his homily this evening, Glemp appeared to express a mixed view of the activity at St. Stanislaw's. While avoiding references to a campaign for Popieluszko's designation as a saint, Glemp appeared to defend the priest's followers from charges of political influence.
"The prayer that is directed to God from here is motivated by love and faith in Christ and not by any other motive," Glemp said.
"In true prayer that places us before God, you can ask for help for the fatherland, society, families and each new life."
Glemp, however, devoted most of his homily to an attack on abortion.