The Apostle of Mercy was raised to the altars
The motto ‘Jesus, I trust you!’ warms up what was cold, softens what was hard, revives what was withered, lights what was going out and instead of hatred that divides all people today it unites individuals, families, societies, nations and countries with an embrace of real brotherly love of God and neighbour.
Fr Michal Sopocko
‘Sr. Faustina Kowalska had visions and Fr Michal Sopocko was the first to believe her and began fulfilling the visions and the one who proclaimed them to the world was John Paul II.’ These words of Archbishop Edward Ozorowski of Bialystok were mentioned by Rev. Msgr Krzysztof Nitkiewicz, postulator of the beatification process of the Apostle of Mercy.
Sr. Faustina – Fr Sopocko – John Paul II
‘This is My faithful servant. He will help you fulfil My will on earth’ (Diary, 53) said Jesus to Sr. Faustina, showing her Fr Michal Sopocko as a confessor and spiritual director in a vision. They met for the first time in Vilnius in 1933. Fr Sopocko was a collaborator of Sr. Faustina to fulfil the will of Lord Jesus concerning the cult of the Divine Mercy. Sr. Faustina told him what Jesus had told her and it was Fr Sopocko who realised the orders. He had a gift of listening to her mystical soul and became a perfect mediator so that the world could hear the voice of the humble nun. It was him that ordered Sr. Faustina to write down her revelations and thus her ‘Diary’ was created. It was also him that contributed to the painting of the first picture of Merciful Jesus.
Fr Sopocko realised the intentions of the nun after her death as well. He lived long enough to witness the opening of the information process of Sr. Faustina Kowalska in 1965 and he was heard as a witness. He died on 15 February 1975 on the feast of St Faustinus, the religious patron of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, so he died on the day of her nameday. ‘Cardinal Karol Wojtyla knew Fr Sopocko personally. They met during some theological symposia and they exchanged letters’, explains Fr Nitkiewicz in his interview for the Catholic Information Agency. In the spring of 1971, just after the post-concilliar edition of the Roman Missal that contained the formula for Divine Mercy Day, Cardinal Wojtyla wrote these meaningful words to Fr Sopocko, ‘Reverend Professor, we can congratulate each other’. It was John Paul II, at the request of the Polish bishops, that allowed celebrating the second Easter Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday in our country from 1995, and the Congregation of God’s Cult and Discipline of Sacraments extended the decision of the Polish Pope to the whole world on 5 May 2000. Moreover, the important fact is that it was during the pontificate of John Paul II that Sr. Faustina Kowalska was beatified (1993) and canonised (2000). Therefore, John Paul II had the biggest contribution in spreading the worship of the Divine Mercy after the death of Fr Sopocko. And the Pope was going to the Father’s House on the eve of the Feast of the Divine Mercy in 2005, which many people considered as a sign from Heaven.
Fr Michal Sopocko – confessor of Sr. Faustina and promoter of the Divine Mercy – was beatified on 28 September 2008 in the Divine Mercy Church in Bialystok. The earthy remains of Fr Sopocko were buried in this church. Archbishop Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the Beatification Mass. There were also Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Poland’s Primate and the Bishops’ Conference, that had had its 345th plenary session in Bialystok earlier, as well as foreign guests including Cardinal Audrys Juozas Ba?kis of Vilnius, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohylev, and Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburino of Foggia in southern Italy. Over 500 priests, including ca. 50 foreigners from the USA, Canada, Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and even from South Korea, co-celebrated the Mass. There were also representatives of the state authorities with President Lech Kaczynki and the last President-in-Exile Ryszard Kaczorowski as well as representatives of the local self-government and the army. At the beginning of the Eucharist Archbishop Ozorowski requested Archbishop Amato to raise the Servant of God Fr Michal Sopocko to the altars whereas Msgr Krzysztof Nitkiewicz from the Vatican presented the life of Fr Sopocko. Then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints read the Apostolic Letter, written in Latin by the Holy Father who raised the Servant of God Fr Michal Sopocko to the rank of the blessed. The Polish version of the formula was read by Archbishop Ozorowski. Then the picture of the newly beatified was solemnly unveiled and from the lower church the procession with the relics of Fr Sopocko went to Blessed Michal’s image where the relics were displayed for veneration.
Servant of the Divine Mercy
The homily was delivered by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow. He stressed that the Church beatified a priest whom God had used to take the unchangeable truth about the Divine Mercy to the people of the 20th century. He said, ‘It was the century especially marked by cruel totalitarian systems that tried to devoid people of hope, that tried to rip from them their dignity, condemning them to a sense of despair and meaninglessness.’
The Metropolitan of Krakow said that Fr Sopocko had become a servant of the Divine Mercy, which had been especially revealed in the turning point of his life when his pastoral ministry had embraced Sr. Faustina Kowalska from the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. ‘There was a need for Fr. Michael's wisdom, spiritual sensitivity, and holiness of life in order to recognize, in the visions of the simple nun, God's message directed to the whole world’, Cardinal Dziwisz said. He added that the newly beatified had confirmed the supernatural character of the visions of his extraordinary penitent and he had made her message reliable. He also mentioned the difficulties that the message given through Sr. Faustina had met in the Church, which at first had treated ‘the revelations’ of the future saint with disbelief. ‘Fr Sopocko accepted the stand of the Church in the spirit of obedience, which allowed him to deepen the theological foundations of the cult of the Divine Mercy and to cleanse it from the forms that had not occurred in the visions of Sr. Faustina.’ Drawing the spiritual image of the confessor of Sr. Faustina Cardinal Dziwisz focused on his courage and endurance, humility and simplicity of life, and first of all on his goodness and mercy towards his neighbours. The Metropolitan of Krakow said that Bialystok became a bridge connecting Vilnius, where Fr Sopocko had met Sr. Faustina, and Krakow. He also mentioned the figure of John Paul II, a great witness and apostle of the Divine Mercy, who had carried the cult from Krakow to Rome and from there to the whole world. He wrote the encyclical about God who is rich in mercy ‘Dives in misericordia’, and he canonised Sr. Faustina. Cardinal Dziwisz reminded the faithful that it had been John Paul II that had established the Feast of the Divine Mercy and had dedicated the shrine in Lagiewniki where he had entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy.
Special greeting from Benedict XVI
Towards the end of the Eucharist the speakers were: the papal delegate Archbishop Angelo Amato, the Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp and the hierarchs from the East: Cardinal Audrys Juozas Ba?kis and Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. And at the meeting with the faithful in Castel Gandolfo during the Angelus on Sunday, 28 September 2008, at the hour of the beatification, the Holy Father Benedict XVI greeted the participants of the Holy Mass in Bialystok. He mentioned the Servant of God John Paul II ‘who most certainly rejoices in this beatification in Father’s House.’ The feast of Blessed Michal will be celebrated on 15 February on the day of his death. Fr Michal Sopocko died in Bialystok 33 years ago. The beatification of Fr Michal Sopocko, great promoter of the Divine Mercy, began the 64th Mercy Week, which lasted from 28 September till 4 October.