Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with prof. Jan Żaryn about a historic ambassador of Poland for the Holy See

In 2019 it has been 40 years since the death of Kazimierz Papee who was an ambassador of the Polish Republic for the Holy See for a dozen years. On this occasion, from the initiative of minister Jan Józef Kasprzyk, a chief of the Office for Combatants and Repressed People and the current ambassador of the Polish Republic for the Holy See Janusz Kotański on 4 March 2019 in Rome there were ceremonies commemorating his person. First there were prayers at his grave on the graveyard Flaminio, and then in the church of St. Stanisław there was a solemn Holy Mass celebrated and presided over by cardinal Zenon Grocholewski. At the end prof. Jan Żaryn gave a lecture on the ambassador Papee. I asked prof. Jan Żaryn to remind us of the person of the unusual servant of the Polish republic who was Kazimierz Papee.

WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: Who was the man who became an ambassador of the Polish Republic for the Holy See in the year of the outbreak of the Second World War?

PROF. JAN ŻARYN: - The story of the Ambassador of the Government of the Polish Republic on Exile is unusual, probably unknown and is connected with the person of dr. Kazimierz Papee (1889 – 1979), a diplomat who was holding the most important posts from the beginning of 1919 and for the whole time of the Second Polish Republic, representing the Foreign Ministry and the Polish country, among the others, in the 30s of the last century, as a general commissioner in the Free City Gdańsk or also as an associate MP in Praque. In July 1939 he was appointed an ambassador of the Polish Republic for the Holy See and he had held his post de iure till 1972, in fact till 1976. His wife was Leonia with her family surname Dobrzańska, a sister of mayor ‘Hubal’ who was a godfather of their son Henryk.

What challenges were faced up to the ambassador of the Polish Republic for the Holy See after the outbreak of the war?

The ambassador took hold of the institution at the difficult moment. After the outbreak of the war he immediately asked pope Pius XII to condemn the aggressor – the Third Reich. The mission failed but his relations with the Vatican diplomacy were dynamic and positive. In 1940, when Italy joined the war, the Holy See invited the embassy to Vatican (together with other institutions of the countries which were pursuing the war with Germany); Papee and others, including a canonic councellor Fr. Walerian Meysztowicz got to live in the old building of St. Marta House where pope Francis lives today. His reports sent to the government of the Polish Republic in London and many meetings with Mons. Domenico Tardinim (a later secretary of state – during the pontificate of John XXIII) and Mons. Giovanni Battista Montini (pope Paul VI) testified that the Polish institution provided lots of reliable information on the German occupation on Polish lands; he informed about the Execution and Polish sufferings, executions and resistance. Thanks to it, finally, in 1943 pope decided to speak on Polish sufferings. The papal diplomacy got activated not earlier than after Rome was captivated by the 2nd Corpus of Polish Military Forces, that is, from June 1944. Thanks to efforts of the ambassador it supported Polish attempts to ask allies to help with the Warsaw Uprising and not let Christian Central Europe go to the hands of pagan and Bolshevik Russia. For that purpose the pope started nunciatures widespread all over the world, and also catholic press, including the Vatican one. Anti-communism of the pope contradicted with Polish interests of independence.

However, despite those attempts Poland was in the sphere of Bolshevik Russia…

Yes, but the effect of that activity was an opposition of the Vatican diplomacy to Yalta arrangements. In July 1945 next western governments acknowledged the Contemporary Government of National Unity. One of the countries – and the most important one from the moral point of view – which was maintaining relations with the government of the Polish Republic on exile, was the Holy See. What is more, in the years 1945-58 (till the death of Pius XII), the ambassador remained a dean of the diplomatic Corpus, that is, he was tolerated – at least – by diplomats of countries which were maintaining relations with the Warsaw government. Papee sent reports to ‘Polish London’ nearly every day, being a very active diplomat, and he met with Polish diaspora, representatives of the Polish Episcopate, and mainly, with diplomats and Tardini and Montini, pro-secretaries of the state, nearly all the time. In 1953, after the Primate of Poland was arrested, from his initiative diplomats from western countries published a protest, getting in solidarity with the Polish cardinal.

What did further mission of the ambassador look like at the situation of breaking apart Polish diaspora and the complicated situation of the government on emigration?

The institution managed by Papee functioned very well, which is proved by saved documents, mainly his reports, which are in the Papal Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies in Rome today and in the Polish Institute and Museum named gen. Władysław Sikorski in London. The ambassador also ran special press bulletins, one in French, addressed to other diplomatic institutions and another – to ‘Polish London’. On this basis I published some of that documentation in two books. Reports by Kazimierz Papee with the government of the Polish Republic on exile became harder and harder towards breaking apart emigration, beginning from June 1947. There were no money to keep embassy, Papee had to move to less prestigious districts of Rome more and more frequently. However, till the end of the 60s he was going to the church of St. Stanisław by car with a flag of the Second Polish Republic where he had his own kneeler and bench. From 1954 he was kept by, among the others, Amerian bishops and Polish diaspora who were giving 15 thousand dollars every year to the needs of the institution via the Secretariat of State. The political crisis appeared after 1958, after death of Pius XII when Papee could not present credentials of his mission, as emigration remained broken apart. Pope John XXIII maintained the institution though, but diminished its rank. In the 60s Kazimierz Papee supported preparations for millennium ceremonies in Rome, and was keeping a lively correspondence. Not earlier than in 1972 did cardinal Jean-Marie Villot inform Papee about finishing his mission, for the reason of establishing permanent dioceses on western and northern lands and undertaking talks between communist Poland and the Holy See. However, the ambassador remained in Rome and till unification of emigration in 1972 he represented the president and the government on exile. Because of his worsening health, he had to finish his mission. At the end of his life he was under care of the Felician nuns and Roman Ursuline nuns as his wife had died in 1960.

What was the unusual role of the ambassador of the Polish Republic based on, held by Kazimierz Papee?

The unusual character of the institution was that in next decades after the war, when the world agreed with the Yalta order (moral disorder), there was a man distant from the main pages of newspapers and TV who represented Polish right for independence under popes’ consent.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 14/2019 (7 IV 2019)

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