Getting to know Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek
On should treat the opening of the exhibition in the Diocesan Museum in Kielce and the accompanying events: the show of the documentary and promotion of the book having the common title ‘Omnia pro Christo Rege. Ksiadz Czeslaw Kaczmarek – Biskup Meczennik’ [Omnia pro Christo Rege. Fr Czeslaw Kaczmarek – Bishop Martyr] in the category of getting to know and deepening the truth about the Bishop of Kielce in the years 1939-63.
We still lack reliable knowledge about the life and ministry of Bishop Kaczmarek. From time to time in the local press in the region of Kielce there appear not accurate articles; there are still half-truths in common opinion, imprinted by the communist propaganda and the internauts – oh horrors! – refer to the publications of the patriotic priests that were disgraced long ago. ‘The occasion to remind us of the figure of Bishop Kaczmarek who was imprisoned by the communists is the 70th anniversary of his bishop’s ministry in Kielce and the 45th anniversary of his death but first of all, the necessity to honour this unique personality’, said Magdalena Kopec, the exhibition organiser, before the film show and opening of the exhibition. Bishop Kazimierz Ryczan and Bishop Kazimierz Gurda of Kielce as well as invited guests participated in the film show and opening of the exhibition.
The almost one hour film by Zbigniew and Stanislaw Cisak is a story about the life and pastoral work of Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek, based on the documents and archival photos, the recollections of the local people and contemporary scenes from the life of Kielce. The film included the less known episodes from his school years and his pastoral ministry in France, the scenes from the work as a royal tutor or volunteer during the Polish-Bolshevik war, which were also parts of the future Bishop of Kielce. The authors also made a preliminary analysis of these pastoral letters and homilies of Bishop Kaczmarek that Stalin’s propaganda had used in the fabricated trial. These include the fragments of his speech from 1939 in which he called to submit to the administrative authority providing that it was in accordance with the dignity of Pole and Christian. The post-war propaganda replaced the word ‘dignity’ with ‘hospitality’, accusing Bishop Kaczmarek of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation can be best refuted by the facts of Bishop Kaczmarek’s work during the occupation: his contribution in the formation of chaplains for the Home Army (every fifth priest from the Diocese of Kielce was appointed to this function and Bishop Kaczmarek himself was sworn in the Christian Resistance Union), the organisation of the extremely thriving soup kitchens for the poor, the successfully functioning orphanages and other charities. It is estimated that these works took 60% of the income of the diocese. 220 priests and 86 alumni (including a few Greek Catholic ones as well as outstanding representatives of the world of science and culture) from other dioceses who could not find shelter elsewhere, were hidden in the Major Seminary in Kielce. And the Germans removed Bishop Kaczmarek from his apartments twice. The occupants also forbid him to write pastoral letters. A considerable part of the documentary concerns the care of Bishop Kaczmarek for priests’ formation (he personally gave retreats and days of meditation for them) and building new churches and rebuilding the destroyed churches just after the war (totally 20 churches). The most interesting fragments of the documentary include a description of the ways of forming public opinion and lying the ground for the arrest of Bishop Kaczmarek, the elaborated methods of the investigation that lasted 2 years and 8 months, which led to the deterioration of his health, including hallucination. The film also shows the attitude of the Bishops’ Conference and the Holy See to the ‘matter of Bishop Kaczmarek.’ The end of the film presents the last years of his work after he returned to the diocese until his death in Lublin in 1963. Bishop Kazimierz Ryczan called that documentary ‘a spiritual feast.’ ‘Our response may only be silence that shouts… The community of Kielce received a wonderful Bishop who gave his life ‘pro Christo Rege’, Bishop Ryczan commented. Then the guests visited the exhibition in the Diocesan Museum.
The mementoes of Bishop Kaczmarek, these typically historical ones and these more ‘sentimental’ ones, are placed in three exhibition rooms of the museum. The first part of the exhibition concerns his childhood, family home, school years, the seminary and the French period. Here the former study of Bishop Kaczmarek was reconstructed; his prayer books and elements of his liturgical robe were displayed. The second room is dedicated to the times of imprisonment and show trial, i.e. the most dramatic period of the life of the Bishop of Kielce. Our attention is drawn to the maximally enlarged fragments of Bishop Kaczmarek’s appeal for rehabilitation in the year 1956, with his handwritten notes and red underlined words, which he must have done himself. The third hall contains photographs and exhibits from the period preceding his death, i.e. after he was released and from the last period of his pastoral ministry. The latest exhibits include the Cavalier`s Cross of the Order of the Restoration of Poland, awarded posthumously by President Lech Kaczynski in 2007. The exhibition dedicated to Bishop Kaczmarek is open at least until the end of January. The displayed objects come from the own collection of the Museum, the Diocesan Archives in Kielce and from private collections. The late Leon Dziedzic, his butler, rendered priceless services to preserve the mementoes of Bishop Kaczmarek. The book ‘Omnia pro Christo Rege. Ksiadz Czeslaw Kaczmarek – Biskup Meczennik’ accompanies the exhibition. It consists of four historical studies: by Marek Jedynak from the Kielce branch of the National Remembrance Institute, by Rev. Prof. Jan Sledzianowski, by Dr. Ryszard Gryz from Kielce University and Fr Dr. Grzegorz Bujak. The authors focus on the genesis of the political situation in Poland after World War II and on the pastoral activities of Bishop Kaczmarek, including his promotion of the Catholic Action in the diocese and his close contacts with the parishioners as well as numerous trial proceedings and interrogations of Bishop Kaczmarek in the Mokotow prison.