Cardinal Józef Glemp was born on December 18th 1929 in Inowrocław in the region of Kujawia and that very day was baptized in the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His father, Kazimierz, an insurgent in Greater Poland, after leaving the armed services, was employed in different positions in the salt mines of Inowrocław. His mother, Salomea, was of the numerous family of Kośmicki, then living in Bielsko near Strzelno.
His earliest years were spent in Rycerzewo, near Inowrocław. At the time of the outbreak of World War II, he had already completed the fourth year of his education in the primary school in Kościelec Kujawski. During the German occupation, he, along with his younger siblings, he was sent to forced labor on a German farm. Following the liberation, in March of 1945, he commenced his studies in the State academic secondary school “Jan Kasprowicz” in Inowrocław. Under the guidance of good teachers he developed a love for history and ancient languages, particularly Latin, which would later become the subject and instrument of his scholarly interests as well as his administrative and juridical occupations. May 25th 1950 he achieved the certificate of maturation along with the diploma approving his entrance to higher studies without the customary matriculation examinations.
He first enrolled in the Faculty of Polish Studies of the University of Warsaw, later transferring to the University of Mikołaj Kopernik in Toruń so as to be able - all hesitation behind him - to enter the Primatial Major Seminary in Gniezno. On October 1st of that year, his father died after a long and serious illness, which increased his responsibility for his mother and the younger children of the family, who by then had moved to Mogilno. His two years of philosophical studies had place in Gniezno. Then, in accord with the existing structure of studies and seminary preparation in the Archdiocese of Gniezno, he went on to the Archiepiscopal Seminary in Poznań on September 30th 1952. There he continued further studies in theology. Upon completion of the full philosophical and theological course, he was ordained to the priesthood in the primatial basilica of Gniezno on May 25th 1956. Owing to the detention of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and the absence of Bishop Lucjan Bernacki, the ordaining prelate was Bishop Franciszek Jedwabski, auxiliary of Poznań.
The State authorities, invoking a decree with regard to ecclesiastical appointments, did not permit the newly ordained priest to undertake his spiritual labors in the parish of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Inowrocław to which he had been assigned, hence Father Józef Glemp assisted in pastoral work in his family parish of Saint James in Mogilno. Only on December 7th of that year, as political circumstances were altered, he took up his duties as chaplain to the Dominican Sisters in Mielżyn near Gniezno, in an institution for incurably ill children. At the same time, he dedicated himself to the teaching of religion in the school of Ruchocinek and in the home for youthful offenders in Witkowo, just outside Gniezno. Thereafter he was chaplain to the Sisters of Sacré Coeur in Polska Wieś, near Pobiedziska where they conducted a secondary school for the general education of young women. He was later transferred to the parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wągrowiec, where he fulfilled the duties of vicar and prefect of the secondary school of education. His final pastoral assignment was in Miasteczko Krajeńskie, where he was vicar.
In 1958 the ecclesiastical authorities sent him to Rome for specialized studies in the field of canon and civil law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, which he completed in 1962. He received the licentiate of both laws on June 20th 1960 and the doctorate on June 23rd 1964. His doctoral thesis was entitled De evolutione conceptus fictionis iuris (The Evolution of the Concept of Legal Fiction). For one year he also attended specialized courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University, among them one devoted to Latin Stylistics under Professor Springetti (1963). In the course of his foreign studies he also completed the Studium of Ecclesiastical Administration at the Congregation of the Council (1962), and benefited much from his three-year course in the school of the Sacred Roman Rota, which he completed with the title of Advocate of the Roman Rota (1961-1964). In Rome he achieved much personal experience and knowledge of the contemporary world and the Church. He witnessed the beginnings of change in the Church during the pontificate of John XXIII, and particularly the birth and course of the Second Vatican Council as well as the idea of postconciliar renewal.
Upon completion of his Roman studies in 1964, Father Glemp returned to Poland and to Gniezno. There he fulfilled the duties of secretary of the Primatial Major Seminary and those of notary in the Metropolitan Curia and the Metropolitan Tribunal of Gniezno. He was later appointed Defender of the Bond, then the consultor in the Primatial Tribunal for matters of dispensation concerning ratified and non-consummated marriage. He also led courses for priests of the Archdiocese of Gniezno in postconciliar studies and in the academic year of 1966-67 was prosynodal examiner in this area.
After three years of work in various institutions of Archdiocese of Gniezno, he was appointed on December 1st 1967 to the Secretariat of the Primate of Poland. From then on he became one of the closest collaborators and members of the household of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. During the years spent in Warsaw, he was the Cardinal’s chaplain and secretary for matters concerning the Archdiocese of Gniezno. In this character he accompanied Primate Wyszyński during many ecclesiastical solemnities in the Archdiocese and throughout Poland and in numerous visits to Rome. He took part in the Primate’s audiences with Pope Paul VI and was able to observe close up the work of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and participated in many important conversations with representatives of the Polish People’s Republic.
Father Józef Glemp was employed in the Secretariat as a specialist in matters juridical, particularly marriage cases. He also fulfilled numerous special assignments entrusted to him by Cardinal Wyszyński, and for a time was the Secretariat’s press officer. During this period he continued his work in the Primatial Tribunal concerning ratified and non-consummated marriage. January 15th 1975 he was appointed secretary of the Commission of the Episcopate for matters concerning Polish Institutions in Rome. The same year he became a member of the Commission of the Episcopate for the Revision of Canon Law.
Simultaneous to his work in the Secretariat of the Primate of Poland, Father Glemp was curator of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters, Servants of the Cross in Laski and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Later he would be named judge in the process of beatification of the Servant of God, Father Władysław Korniłowicz. He dedicated much time to pastoral work in the parish church of Saint Martin and in the pastoral center of the University Church of Saint Anne in Warsaw. Beginning with 1970 he was entrusted with pastoral care of lawyers and jurists in Warsaw.
Notwithstanding his many duties in the Secretariat and other works entrusted to him, Father Glemp, in consideration of his scholarly interests, became a volunteer assistant in the Faculty of Canon Law of the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw, in the field of Roman Law (since February 1968), and in the field of matrimonial canon law during the academic year 1973/74. He continued in these assignments to the very moment of his nomination as Bishop of Warmia in March, 1979. As Delegate of the Primate - Grand Chancellor of the Academy of Catholic Theology - he took part in many doctoral and professorial proceedings in that institution. Finally on March 12th 1975 in the Faculty of Canon Law he carried out the confirmation of his doctorate.
Of his sensibility for the fulfillment of the responsibilities of a teacher one need only refer to his preparation of study-aids for students, such as the Lexiculum prawa rzymskiego (Small Lexicon of Roman Law), published by the Academy of Catholic Theology in 1974. This collection of material also contains translations of texts into Polish. Father Glemp carried out his teaching obligations with great professional and human, but above all, priestly dedication. He approached his teaching task not merely as a purveyor of factual juridical information, but insisted on including elements of application of law to the concrete life of man and human society. He shared his personal experiences in his judicial practice and his administrative work. He took part in numerous meetings and conventions of canonists, both in Poland and abroad, as for example, the Third International Congress of Canon Law in Pamplona in October 1976.
In recognition of his zeal and dedication to the Church, as well as his exemplary priestly work, he was named by Pope Paul VI to the dignity of Chaplain of Honor of His Holiness on November 29th 1972, and four years later, on March 19th 1976, he was created gremial canon of the Primatial Chapter of Gniezno.
March 4th 1979 he was named 48th Ordinary of the Diocese of Warmia, and took canonical possession of the see on March 19th of that year. He received episcopal consecration in Gniezno on April 21st 1979 from the hands of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Archbishop Franciszek Macharski and Bishop Jan Obłąk. The motto of his pastoral service was the call to dedication to love in justice- Caritati in Iustitia. Upon his entry into the Polish Episcopate he was named to chair the Commission of the Episcopate Iustitia et Pax. He became, moreover, a member of several other Commissions: Pastoral Care of Workers, the Revision of Canon Law, and that concerned with Polish Institutions in Rome. At a later date he co-chaired the legislative assembly called into being by the Joint Commission of Representatives of the Government and the Episcopate.
As Bishop Ordinary he took his responsibilities with great enthusiasm and manifested great solicitude for the peoples of Warmia and Mazuria, especially for the population which had lived for centuries under persecution in these territories, both afflicted during the German occupation, as in more recent decades. Bishop Glemp erected many parishes and pastoral and catechetical centers. He convoked a Presbyteral Council (September 15th 1979), a Pastoral Council (September 20th 1979), and reactivated the Diocesan Commission of Art (October 8th 1979), the Council for Publications (November 30th 1979) and the Liturgical Commission (December 21st 1979). On March 19th 1980 he announced the beginning of the preparatory phase of the Pastoral Synod of the Diocese of Warmia, whose previous Synod had place in 1922. Further, he gave new impulse to the process of beatification of the Servant of God, Cardinal Stanisław Hozjusz.
Following the death of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński (May 28th 1981), Pope John Paul II on July 3rd 1982 named Józef Glemp, until then Bishop of Warmia, to assume the vacant sees of Gniezno and of Warsaw. In the see of the Primates of Poland he is the 8th Archbishop Metropolitan as well as the 56th Primate. He is the 14th head of the Archdiocese of Warsaw and its 12th Archbishop Metropolitan, not taking into account the vicars-capitular, titular archbishops, and the vicars-general who carried out their spiritual office in Warsaw after Archbishop Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński was deported into the heart of Russia. Bishop Glemp took possession of both archdioceses on July 9th 1981. As Primate of Poland he became responsible for other functions: Protector of Pastoral Care for Poles Abroad, Ordinary in Poland for members of the Greek and Armenian Catholic Churches, and, above all, Chairman of the Conference of the Episcopate of Poland.
On February 3rd 1983, during the public consistory in the Vatican Archbishop Józef Glemp was created a Cardinal-Priest of the Holy Roman Church and titular of the Church of Our Lady on the Tiber (Santa Maria in Trastevere), which had previously been the titular church of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Cardinal Glemp accompanied the Holy Father, John Paul II, during his pilgrimages to Poland in 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2002, during World Youth Day in Częstochowa and Paris, in several foreign pilgrimages, among them, to Spain, France, Austria, Lithuania and Lettonia, Slovakia and Ucraina. Upon the reorganization of ecclesiastical structures in Poland on March 25th 1992, Cardinal Józef Glemp remained Archbishop Metropolitan of Warsaw, continuing in the dignity of Primate of Poland as guardian of the relic of Saint Wojciech, and also as Ordinary for faithful of the Oriental rites living in Poland who do not have their proper Ordinary. In the period of 1981-2004 he was Chairman of the Permanent Council (formerly the Chief Council), and of the Conference of the Episcopate of Poland. He is Grand Chancellor of the University of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński (Academy of Catholic Theology) and the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Warsaw, and doctor honoris causa higher learning: The Academy of Catholic Theology, Warsaw, 1982; Villanova University, Philadelphia, 1985; The Catholic University of Lublin, 1985; The University of Santo Tomas, Manila, 1988; The University of Bari, 1990; Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, 1991; Warsaw Agricultural University (SGGW), 1992; the Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Warsaw, 1995; Loyola University of Chicago, 1998 and University of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, 2001.
Cardinal Glemp is a Bailiff Grand Cross of Honor and Devotion of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Malta in its Polish Association (1994) and Grand Prior of the Grand Priory of Poland of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem (1996). He is also a member of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches (1983), Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (2002) and the Pontifical Council of Culture (1993). He is also the Honorary Chairman of the international meetings of Uomini e Religioni. He is a honorary citizen of many cities, among them Warsaw, Inowrocław, Mogilno, Żnin, Darłów, Miechów, Piastów and Łowicz ,as well as Castel Sant’Elia in Italy.
As a spiritual guardian of the Polish emigration, he continues to visit Polish centers in various countries of the world. He has conducted pastoral visitations in Argentina and Brazil (1984), France (1986), Belgium (1987), several times in Great Britain, the United States, Russia, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Norway. He has visited Polish missionaries working in Algeria and the Ivory Coast (1987), as well as the Polish Carmelites in northern Norway and members of the Polish expedition on research in subarctic Spitsberg.
The Cardinal Primate has met with numerous outstanding personalities in political life, among them King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Baudouin of Belgium, King Olaf of Norway, King Carl Gustav of Sweden, with United States Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, Presidents Francois Mitterand and Jacques Chirac of France, President Mario Soares of Portugal, Presidents Sandro Pertini and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro of Italy, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary-General of the United Nations as well as Mikhail Gorbachow and Eduard Schevardnadze, and several times with the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who brought the Missionaries of Charity to Poland, thanks to the support of the Cardinal Primate.
Cardinal Glemp has presided over many religious and patriotic solemnities in Poland and abroad, among them the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, the Jubilees of the Polish Missions in France and in England and Wales. He came to the United States for the 50th anniversary of the Catholic League; the 200th anniversary of the Dąbrowski Mazurka in Reggio Calabria, Italy; the 200th anniversary of the May 3rd Constitution; the 400th anniversary of the City of Warsaw as Capital; 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; of the City of Warsaw Uprising; of the second funerals of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, King Stanisław August Poniatowski, General Władysław Sikorski and President Ignacy Mościcki.
The Cardinal has taken part in millennial celebrations in honor of Saint Wojciech throughout Poland and numerous solemnities on Jasna Góra, where he annually preaches on the feast of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, the feast of the Assumption, and the feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa. He traditionally takes part in the procession in honor of St. Stanislaus in Kraków, where he preaches in the church on Skałka.
The following publications summarize the scholarly output of Cardinal Glemp:
De conceptu fictionis iuris apud Romanos 1974, Lexiculum iuris romani 1974, Przez sprawiedliwość ku miłości (Through Justice to Love) 1982, Człowiek wielkiej miary (A Man of Great Calibre) 1983, Kościół na drogach Ojczyzny (The Church on the Paths of the Fatherland) 1985, Chcemy z tego sprawdzianu wyjść prawdomówni i wiarygodni 1985, Kościół i Polonia (The Church and Polonia) 1986, Umocnieni nadzieją (Strenghtened by Faith) 1987, W tęczy Franków orzeł i krzyż (In the Rainbow of the Franks: the Eagle and The Cross) 1987, O Eucharystii (The Eucharist) 1987, Nauczanie pasterskie (Pastoral Teachings), 5 volumes 1981-95, Let My Call Come to You 1988, A wołanie moje niech do Ciebie przyjdzie (Let My Cry Come Unto Thee) 1988, Boże, coś Polskę posłał nad Tamizę (The Visitation to the Church on the Thames) 1988, Nauczanie społeczne 1981-1986 (Social Teaching 1981-1986) 1989, Na dwóch wybrzeżach (On Two Coasts) 1990, U przyjaciół Belgów (Among Our Belgian Friends) 1990, I uwierzyli uczniowie (And His Disciples Believed in Him) 1990, Zamyślenia Maryjne (Marian Reflections) 1990, Słowo Boże nad Łyną 1991, Tysiąclecie wiary świętego Włodzimierza (The Millennium of Faith of Saint Vladimir) 1991, Gniezno - ciągła odnowa (Gniezno - Constant Renewal) 1991, Służyć Ewangelii słowem (Serving the Gospel in Word) 1991, Solidariet : La Polonia che sogniamo 1991, Na Skałce - na opoce (On Skałka - On the Rock) 1991, Niebo ściągają na ziemię 1991, Między Ewangelią a Konstytucją (Between the Gospel and the Constitution) 1992, Na wyspie Świętego Patryka (On the Isle of Saint Patrick) 1992, Idźmy do Betlejem (Let Us Go to Bethlehem) 1992, Wartości chrześcijańskie nabywane pod Kalwarią (Christian Values Won on Calvary) 1993, W blaskach Zmartwychwstania ( In the Splendor of the Resurrection) 1994, Być znakiem miłości (To be a Sign of Love) 1994, Rodzina drogą Kościoła (The Family and the Path of the Church) 1995, Boskie i cesarskie (What is God’s and What is Caesar’s) 1995, Idzie, idzie Bóg prawdziwy (He Comes, the True God, He Comes) 1995, Le Chemins des P lerins 1996, Od Kalwarii na drogi Europy (From Calvary down to the Paths of Europe) 1997, Święci idą przez Warszawę (Saints Have Walked through Warsaw) 1997, Piętnaście lat posługi prymasowskiej (Fifteen Years of Primatial Service) 1997, Poles - We enter now the Twenty-first Century! 1998, Modlimy się w kraju Helwetów 1998, Zachowanie tożsamości narodowej a solidarność międzyludzka (Te Preservation of National Identity and Interhuman Solidarity) 1998, Z krzyżem przez dzieje wierzącej Stolicy 1998, Odkrywać drogi Opatrzności Bożej 1999, Listy pasterskie Prymasa Polski 1999, La speranza a Varsavia si stringe alla Croce 1999, Sławny w męczenników gronie 1999, Chrystus wciąż żyje 2001, Ściśle duszpasterskie 2002, „Caritati in iustitia” 2002, Opatrzność pod krzyżem Chrystusa i naszym 2003, Z Jasnogórskiego Szczytu 2004.
ks. Mirosław Kreczmański