Józef Kowalczyk

Józef Kowalczyk (Polish pronunciation: [ˈjuzɛf kɔˈvalt͡ʂɨk]; born 28 August 1938) is a Polish Roman Catholic prelate, canon lawyer and diplomat who, from 1989 to 2010, served as the first apostolic nuncio to Poland since World War II. He later served as archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland until his retirement in 2014.

His Excellency

Józef Kowalczyk
Archbishop Emeritus of Gniezno
Primate Emeritus of Poland
Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk
ChurchRoman Catholic
Installed26 June 2010
Term ended17 May 2014
Ordination14 January 1962
by Józef Drzazga
Consecration20 October 1989
by John Paul II
Personal details
Born (1938-08-28) 28 August 1938 (age 82)
Jadowniki Mokre
MottoFiat Voluntas Tua
(Thy will be done)
Coat of armsEpiscopal coat of arms of Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, charged with a cross, a pastoral staff, a plough, and a star

Education and early careerEdit

Kowalczyk was born on 28 August 1938 in the village of Jadowniki Mokre near Tarnów. In 1956 he began to study at the Seminary of Olsztyn, a successor institution of the Collegium Hosianum. He was ordained priest by auxiliary bishop Józef Drzazga on 14 January 1962 and nominated vicar at the parish of the Holy Trinity in Kwidzyn shortly thereafter. In October 1963, he began his training in canon law at the Catholic University of Lublin and moved to Rome to continue his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in February 1965. He earned his doctorate in canon law in 1968 and a diploma of advocate of the Roman Rota in 1971. He also received a diploma of archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives.[1]

On 19 December 1969, Kowalczyk began to work at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In the years 1976–1978, he accompanied the nuncio for special assignments, Archbishop Luigi Poggi, on trips to the People's Republic of Poland. On 18 October 1978, two days after Cardinal Karol Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II, Kowalczyk was asked to set up a Polish section of the Vatican Secretariat of State. He went on as the head of this section until 1989. In this capacity, he often accompanied the pope in his foreign visits. Kowalczyk was additionally charged with the task of overseeing the translation and publication of works written by Wojtyła before his accession to papacy.[1]

According to the daily Rzeczpospolita, documents held by the Institute of National Remembrance indicate that, from 1982 until 1990, Kowalczyk was registered by the Polish Communist secret police (Służba Bezpieczeństwa) as a source of information under codename "Cappino". It is uncertain whether Kowalczyk knew to have been registered or that he agreed to it.[2]

Nuncio to PolandEdit

Following Solidarity's victory in the parliamentary election in June 1989, Poland resumed diplomatic relations with the Holy See on 17 July 1989. On 26 August 1989, Pope John Paul II nominated Kowalczyk as the first post-war apostolic nuncio to Poland.[3] The pope consecrated him as titular archbishop of Heraclea in St. Peter's Basilica on 20 October 1989.[1][4] Kowalczyk chose the words Fiat Voluntas Tua ("Thy will be done", quote from the Pater Noster) as his episcopal motto; his episcopal coat of arms is charged with a cross, a pastoral staff, a star symbolizing the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a plough symbolizing Kowalczyk's rural origin. The nuncio arrived in Warsaw on 23 November 1989 and presented his letter of credence to President Wojciech Jaruzelski on 6 December 1989.[1]

Józef Kowalczyk with the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw

As nuncio, Kowalczyk presided over the reëstablishment of the military ordinariate of Poland in 1991. Together with the Conference of Polish Bishops, he worked on a thorough reorganization of the administrative structure of the Catholic Church in Poland.[1] This task resulted in the papal bull Totus Tuus Poloniae populus of 1992, which erected 13 new dioceses, elevated eight dioceses to archdioceses, and adjusted ecclesiastical borders to match the post-war borders of Poland.[5] The nuncio also negotiated with Polish authorities the text of the concordat which was signed on 28 July 1993 and ratified by Poland in 1998. The concordat, in which the Republic of Poland agreed, among other things, to recognize the legal personality of the Catholic Church and legal validity of church marriages, became a model for other concordats in Europe and for regulations on Poland's relations with other denominations. Kowalczyk was also responsible for preparing John Paul II's and Benedict XVI's papal visits to Poland in 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2006.[1]

By tradition, Kowalczyk – in his capacity as the apostolic nuncio – acted as dean of the diplomatic corps in Poland. Although formally he was not part of the Conference of Polish Bishops, he played an important advisory role. His job was also to propose candidates for episcopal appointments to the Holy See; during his 21-year-long nunciature – the longest ever in a single country – Kowalczyk had a considerable influence on the composition of the Catholic episcopate in Poland.[1]

Primate of PolandEdit

On 8 May 2010, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of retiring Archbishop Henryk Muszyński and nominated Kowalczyk as the new archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland.[6] He was ceremoniously installed at the Gniezno Cathedral on 26 June 2010.[7] The primatial title, which is traditionally held by the head of the oldest archbishopric in Poland, no longer carries significant power in national or church structures, but remains a prestigious honorific post.[8] On 17 May 2014, Kowalczyk retired as Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the archiepiscopal see of Gniezno and appointed Archbishop Wojciech Polak as his successor.[9]

Catholic Church titles
Title last held by
Filippo Cortesi
Apostolic Nuncio to Poland
26 August 1989 – 8 May 2010
Succeeded by
Celestino Migliore
Preceded by
Henryk Muszyński
Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland
8 May 2010 – 17 May 2014
Succeeded by
Wojciech Polak


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Abp Józef Kowalczyk nowym Prymasem Polski" [Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk becomes the new Primate of Poland] (in Polish). Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna. 2010-05-08. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  2. ^ Gmyz, Cezary (2009-01-07). "SB: "Cappino" to źródło sprawdzone" [Secret police: "Cappino" is a verified source]. Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Gremi Media. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  3. ^ "Życiorys" [Biography] (in Polish). Sekretariat Prymasa Polski. 2009. Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  4. ^ "Józef Kowalczyk". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney.
  5. ^ "17-lecie wielkiej reformy Kościoła w Polsce" [17th anniversary of the great reform of the Church in Poland] (in Polish). Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna. 2009-03-25. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  6. ^ "Rinuncia dell'Arcivescovo Metropolita di Gniezno e Primate della Polonia e nomina del successore" [Resignation of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland, and nomination of his successor] (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 2010-05-08. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  7. ^ "Zakończył się ingres abp Kowalczyka do Gniezna" [Archbishop Kowalczyk's installation ceremony in Gniezno has ended] (in Polish). Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna. 2010-06-26. Archived from the original on 2013-09-17. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  8. ^ Nurski, Robert. "Urząd i godność arcybiskupa gnieźnieńskiego Prymasa Polski w historii Kościoła i państwa polskiego – zarys" [Office and title of the Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland in the history of the Church and the Polish state – overview] (in Polish). Sekretariat Prymasa Polski. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
  9. ^ Migliore, Celestino (2014-05-17). "Komunikat Nuncjatury Apostolskiej w Polsce nr 4499/14" [Communqué of the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland No. 4499/14] (in Polish). Sekretariat Prymasa Polski. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-05-17.

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