DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     December 15, 1999     vol. 10, no. 238


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      Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we spotlight each member of the Conclave in alphabetical order. We find this necessary as our dear Sovereign Pontiff Pope John Paul II grows older, clinging to hope, as we join him, of seeing the light of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart with the dawn of the new millennium - the Jubilee Year 2000. How much longer this 264th successor of Peter has left on this earth only God knows for sure, but His Divine Mercy is evident in allowing him to be with us this long for he truly is a saint for our times, truly Christ's Vicar on earth in these waning days before the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart, the Time of Peace, the Era of the Eucharistic Presence, the New Pentecost, the Second Advent, the Age of the Holy Spirit. What 1999 will bring we have no idea, nor does anyone else, but with John Paul II at the helm, we feel much more secure in knowing God's Will will be done. Nevertheless, we want to preview the future Pope whether that be soon or much, much later, for no one lives forever and eventually one of those prelates will be selected as the 265th successor of Peter. This will give the reader a better insight into the man whom the Holy Spirit will move the conclave to choose. Thus we bring the reader vignettes on each cardinal in alphabetical order gleaned from the Catholic Almanac, The Official Catholic Directory, Inside the Vatican and other sources.

135.   Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek

        Long harassed, persecuted and imprisoned by the KGB, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek became one of the Church's oldest first-time prelates when he was ordained at the age of 77 in order to serve as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev in Belarus or Bielorussia. He was born in Walga, Estonia on October 21, 1914 just as World War I was breaking out. He survived that to enter the seminary in his teens and became a priest on April 8, 1939 in the Diocese of Pinsk in Belarus just before World War II broke out. No sooner was he ordained than the Russian KGB arrested him, imprisoning him on death row in Brest prison. But he was able to escape during a Nazi invasion when in the confusion, the guards opened the wrong doors. He returned to his assigned parish where he remained during the next five years until the Russians got the upper hand again and sent the KGB after him. Once again he was arrested by Soviet agents and sentenced to prison in Minsk on December 18, 1944. He remained there until July 21st the next year when he was transferred to the salt mines of Siberia in forced labor at a concentration camp in this remote eastern region of Russia for the next ten years.

        Finally he was released on June 16, 1954. Emaciated and ill, he returned to Pinsk where his bishop assigned him to his former parish and he regained his strength, spurred on by his parishioners who loved him dearly. On February 11, 1988 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness. The following year he became Vicar General of the Pinsk Diocese on April 11, 1989. With the fall of the iron curtain, Pope John Paul II, no stranger to communism, named him Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev on April 13, 1991 and he was ordained and installed with great pomp and circumstance on May 21, 1991 as well as being appointed Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk. The Holy Father rewarded him with the cardinalate during his Consistory of November 26, 1994 bestowing on him the titular church of St. Gerard Majella. Though no longer eligible to vote in the Sacred Conclave, even at the age of 85, he still continues as Archbishop showing remarkable strength for someone of his age and earlier travails at the hands of the communists.

December 15, 1999       volume 10, no. 238


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