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Prophet: New Film Reveals the Man Who Paved the Way for St. JPII

By November 17, 2022No Comments4 min read

A publicity image from Prophet, the New film about Blessed Stefan Wyszyński

Blessed Stefan Wyszyński, the primate imprisoned by communists for three years, inspired JPII — he died soon after the Polish pope was shot

A Polish pope? Before the world imagined Pope John Paul II, the “closest thing to a Polish pope” was Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, whose battles with communists paved the way for all who followed.

The new film Prophet, released across the United States on November 15, tells the story of Blessed Stefan Wyszyński (1901–1981). So how did St. John Paul the Great win the Cold War? It started by making Poles more Catholic.

“Poland must become more Catholic to be a moral force,” Wyszyński explains. “It’s easy to get deluded.”

We see a young Wyszyński in September 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland, starting World War II. When a young soldier cries, “I don’t want to live,” Father Wyszyński restores his will to survive.

Like all great leaders, Wyszyński and John Paul built on the faith of our fathers:

  • Poland was the critical domino toppling communism. Cardinal Wyszyński was one of the first to shake what John Paul called the rotten tree of communism. He was nominated to be a bishop in 1946, as the Russians consolidated their conquest of Poland just after World War II. He soon became the primate, overseeing the Church in Poland.
  • A prisoner for Christ. From 1953 to 1956, the communists imprisoned him for three years while torturing bishops. Then, through a vast operation codenamed Prophet (Prorok in Polish), they spied on him constantly for the rest of his life, trying to ruin his reputation and hurt the Church, but he prevailed and kept overcoming them.
  • The Millenium. In 1966, he organized global events marking the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, when Poland became a Catholic nation in 966. He prepared his country for nine years with an unprecedented nine-year novena bringing Poles closer to Christ.
  • They were arresting an icon of Our Lady. When he wanted Our Lady of Częstochowa, the most revered symbol of Poland, carried to every parish, the communists confiscated all images. So he ordered a more robust response: Catholics marched with an empty frame showing the communists feared even the sight and powerful truth of Our Lady.
  • The most crucial moment of his life. The climax of the 1966 millennium celebrations was the entrusting of the Church and the Polish people to Our Lady. Hundreds of thousands participated, including a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Karol Wojtyła, a moment Wyszyński called the most important one in his life.

A prequel for the story of St. John Paul the Great

The film includes the deadly 1970 worker strikes that would topple his rivals and foreshadow the 1980 Solidarity movement a decade later, along with a great deal of foreshadowing of other seeds that would grow into mighty oaks.

The film shows how Wyszyński promoted the much younger Wojtyła from a priest who guided young people to an auxiliary bishop in 1958 and, later, the world’s youngest cardinal, encouraging him to travel the world meeting Poles in America and Australia. He tells Wojtyła: “You’re the only one who can do it.”

The beautiful, powerful, and moving film is the feature début of Polish director Michał Kondrat, whose earlier award-winning documentaries have told the stories of other compelling Catholic saints like St. Faustina and St. Maximillian Kolbe.

The film shows the primate as a spiritual leader and visionary who negotiated for more rights for the Church and an oppressed nation. Some called him a “Red cardinal” for even talking to his enemy, while most realized his battles were constant and ongoing.

The struggle is part of an ongoing test of life

The dialogues for the exchanges between the primate and Polish rulers Władysław Gomułka and Józef Cyrankiewicz come from the stenographic records based on the government wiretaps.


The film also shows the critical moment in 1965, when he pushed the Polish bishops to meet the German bishops just 20 years after World War II, telling the Germans: “We forgive, and we ask for forgiveness.”

He is surrounded by angry, hurt people crying for revenge (Poland is the Christ of Europe that lost a greater percentage of its population than any nation during World War II). But ever Christ-like, he teaches them, “Hate ensnares those who hate.”

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński died of abdominal cancer on May 28, 1981, on the day of the Feast of Ascension — just 15 days after John Paul was shot. His beatification took place in Warsaw on September 12, 2021. But many believe he hung on to life as long as he did to ensure his protege would survive the assassination attempt.

During the turning point Mass marking 1,000 years of Poland as a Christian nation (a might that would shrug off 40 years of communist oppression), he showed Poles good and truth always triumph over evil and lies. And he directs the people back to the queen of Poland, our mother, Mary.

“Repeat after me,” he tells the crowds as they look to the Blessed Mother. “We entrust.”

Joseph Serwach