Vol. 9, Issue No. 28/2002
US Congress on Beatification of Archbishop Felinski
CONGRESSMAN BOB SCHAFFER COMMENDS BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT SZCZESNY FELINSKI
Remarks Before U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C., October 2, 2002
Congressman Bob Schaffer (R-CO), Co-Chairman of the House of Representatives' Ukrainian Caucus, today honored the founder of Russian Catholicism, Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, in remarks before the House of Representatives. Pope John Paul II beatified Archbishop Felinski (1822-1895) on August 18, 2002
Schaffer said, "As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, I call the attention of the House to the life of Archbishop Felinski - a man whose example of courage, perseverance and faith provides heroic encouragement to all of us who desire freedom and liberty."
"I know the hearts of America's Polish, Ukrainian and Russian immigrants swelled with pride upon the beatification of Archbishop Felinski. Likewise, the faithful of Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, through his ministry, have been truly blessed. His remarkable life brought the Gospel to the most inhospitable reaches of Eastern Europe and he delivered the word of salvation to thousands whose lives were inspired by his exemplary devotion. Indeed, we are all inspired today.
October 2, 2002
Mr. Speaker, on August 18, 2002, Pope John Paul II beatified the founder of Russian Catholicism Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895). Bl. Zygmunt Felinski was Archbishop of Warsaw and Founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. He was born on November 1, 1822 in Wojutyn in Volinia in present-day Ukraine.
As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, I call the attention of the House to the life of Archbishop Felinski - a man whose example of courage, perseverance and faith provides heroic encouragement to all of us who desire freedom and liberty.
Mr. Speaker, according to the Vatican, Felinski, Archbishop of Warsaw for 16 months, spent 20 years in exile in Siberia, spent 12 years in semi-exile as Archbishop of Tarsus and parish priest in the country. He died in Kraków, which then belonged to Austria, on 17 September 1895. Indeed, he spent 58 of his 73 years in territory that belonged to the Russian Empire.
A Vatican biography describes him as follows: He is venerated as Shepherd in exile, an apostle of national harmony and unity in the spirit of the Gospel, a model of priestly dedication. As Archbishop of Warsaw and founder of a religious congregation, he exercised his duties and role as "Good Shepherd" with great strength, love and courage, always keeping careful watch over himself. "I am convinced that by keeping my heart uncontaminated, living in faith and in fraternal love towards my neighbor, I will not go off the path. These are my only treasures and are without price," he wrote.
The third of six children, of whom two died at an early age, he was brought up with faith and trust in Divine Providence, love for the Church and Polish culture. When Zygmunt was 11 years old his father died. Five years later, in 1838, his mother was arrested by the Russians and sent into exile in Siberia for her involvement in patriotic activity. Her patriotic activity was working for the improvement of the social and economic conditions of the farmers.
Zygmunt was well educated. After completing high school, he studied mathematics at the University of Moscow from 1840-1844. In 1847 he went to Paris, where he studied French Literature at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France. He knew all the important figures of the Polish emigration. He was a friend of the nationalist poet Juliusz Slowacki who died after the revolt of Poznan. In 1848, he took part in the revolt of Poznan which failed. From 1848-50 he was tutor to the sons of Eliza and Zenon Brzozowski in Munich and Paris. In 1851 he returned to Poland and entered the diocesan seminary of Zytomierz. He studied at the Catholic Academy of St. Petersburg.
On 8 September 1855 Archbishop Ignacy Holowinski, Archbishop of Mohilev ordained him. He was assigned to the Dominican Fathers' Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in St. Petersburg until 1857, when the bishop appointed him spiritual director of the Ecclesiastical Academy and professor of philosophy. In 1856 he founded the charitable organization "Recovery for the Poor" and in 1857 he founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.
On 6 January 1862, Pope Pius IX appointed Zygmunt Felinski Archbishop of Warsaw. On 26 January 1862 Archbishop Zylínski consecrated him in St Petersburg. On 31 January he left for Warsaw where he arrived on 9 February 1862. The Russians brutally suppressed the Polish uprising against Russia in Warsaw in 1861 creating a state of siege. In response to the harsh measures of the Russians, the ecclesial authorities closed all the churches for four months. On 13 February 1862, the new Archbishop reconsecrated the cathedral of Warsaw; the Russian Army had profaned it on 15 October 1861. On 16 February he opened all of the churches in the city with the solemn celebration of the Forty Hours Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Zygmunt Felinski was Archbishop of Warsaw for 16 months, from 9 February 1862 to 14 June 1863. Times were difficult since there were daily clashes between the occupying Russian power and the Nationalist Party. Unfortunately, he was met by an atmosphere of distrust on the part of some citizens and even clergy, since the Russian government deceived them into thinking that he was secretly collaborating with the government. The Archbishop always made it clear that he was only at the service of the Church. He also worked for the systematic elimination of governmental interference in the internal affairs of the Church. He reformed the diocese by making regular visits to the parishes and to the charitable organizations within the diocese so that he could better understand and meet their needs.
He reformed the programs of study at the Ecclesiastical Academy of Warsaw and in the diocesan seminaries, giving new impetus to the spiritual and intellectual development of the clergy. He made every effort to free the imprisoned priests. He encouraged them to proclaim the Gospel openly, to catechize their parishioners, to begin parochial schools and to take care that they raise a new generation that would be sober, devout and honest. He looked after the poor and orphans, starting an orphanage in Warsaw, which he entrusted to the Sisters of the Family of Mary.
In political action he tried to prevent the nation from rushing headlong into a rash and inconsiderate position. As a sign of his own protest against the bloody repression by the Russians of the "January Revolt" of 1863, Archbishop Felinski resigned from the Council of State and on 15 March 1863 wrote a letter to the Emperor Alexander II, urging him to put an end to the violence. He likewise protested against the hanging of the Capuchin Fr. Agrypin Konarski, chaplain of the "rebels". His courage and interventions quickly brought about his exile by Alexander II.
In fact, on 14 June 1863, he was deported from Warsaw to Jaroslavl, in Siberia, where he spent the next 20 years deprived by the Czar of any contact with Warsaw. He found a way to organize works of mercy to help his fellow prisoners and especially the priests. Despite the restrictions of the Russian police, he managed to collect funds to build a Catholic Church, which later became a parish. The people were struck by his spiritual attitude and eventually began calling him the "holy Polish bishop".
In 1883, following negotiations between the Holy See and Russia, Archbishop Felinski was freed and on 15 March 1883, Pope Leo XIII transferred him from the See of Warsaw to the titular See of Tarsus. For the last 12 years of his life he lived in semi-exile, in southeastern Galizia at Dzwiniaczka, among the crop farmers of Polish and Ukrainian background. As chaplain of the public chapel of the manor house of the Counts Keszycki and Koziebrodzki, he launched an intense pastoral activity. Out of his own pocket, he set up in the village the first school and a kindergarten. He built a church and convent for the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.
In his leisure, he prepared for publication the works he had written during his exile in Jaroslavl. Here are some of them: Spiritual Conferences, Faith and Atheism in the search for happiness, Conferences on Vocation, Under the Guidance of Providence, Social Commitments in view of Christian Wisdom and Atheism; Memories (three editions).
He died in Kraków on 17 September 1895 and was buried in Kraków on 20 September. Later he was buried at Dzwiniacza (10 October 1895). In 1920 his remains were translated to Warsaw where, on 14 April 1921, they were solemnly interred in the crypt of the Cathedral of St John where they are now venerated.
Mr. Speaker, the beatification of Zygmunt Felinski is significant for us to consider during the difficult period in which we find ourselves today. Clearly, America's desire to secure freedom and liberty for our neighbors and ourselves must coincide with a sincere commitment to provide aid, comfort and charity to the poor and oppressed of the world. Upon the Holy Mass and Beatification, Pope John Paul II suggested to the world the suitability of Zygmunt Felinski as an inspiration to persevere in service to the poor. He stressed the importance of establishing educational institutions, orphanages and political activism for the cause of freedom.
The pope said, "inspired by this spirit of social charity, Archbishop Felinski gave himself fully in defending the freedom of the nation. This is necessary today also, when different forces - often under the guidance of a false ideology of freedom - try to take over this land. When the noisy propaganda of liberalism, of freedom without truth or responsibility, grows stronger in our country too, the Shepherds of the Church cannot fail to proclaim the one fail-proof philosophy of freedom, which is the truth of the Cross of Christ. This philosophy of freedom finds full motivation in the history of our nation."
Mr. Speaker, I know the hearts of America's Polish, Ukrainian and Russian immigrants swelled with pride upon the beatification of Archbishop Felinski. Likewise, the faithful of Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, through his ministry, have been truly blessed. His remarkable life brought the Gospel to the most inhospitable reaches of Eastern Europe and he delivered the word of salvation to thousands whose lives were inspired by his exemplary devotion. Indeed, we are all inspired today.
As the son of a Ukrainian immigrant, I am honored to deliver these remarks today as a Member of the U.S. Congress that we may all find encouragement and reassurance in the unyielding love of the Almighty as is intended by the beatification of Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Congressman Schaffer was first elected to Congress in November of 1996. He is a member of the Committees on Agriculture, Resources, and Education and Workforce. He is Vice Chairman of the Education Subcommittee on Education Reform, Co-Chairman of the Ukrainian Caucus, President of the Republican Junior Class, and the Speaker's appointee to the House Republican Policy Committee.
His official Internet website address is www.house.gov/schaffer.
© Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski