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Millennium celebrations of the Baptism of Poland

The Jasna Góra Pledge of the Nation, the Great Millennium Novena and the Millennium celebrations of the Baptism of Poland

1966 was the millennium anniversary of the Baptism of Poland. This decision of Mieszko I, undertook in 966, not only brought Poland into the circle of Christian countries but also had an important state-forming and culture-creating impact. Celebrations of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland in 1966 were held in many cities, including Gniezno, Poznan, Cracow and Piekary Slaskie, and everywhere they gathered hundreds of thousands of people. The central celebrations of the Millennium of the Baptism took place on 3 May 1966 at Jasna Gora.

The Millennium celebrations had been preceded by 10 years of preparation – the Great Millennium Novena – a pastoral plan developed by the Primate during his imprisonment in Komańcza. The purpose of the Novena was to stimulate religious devotion and moral renewal of the nation, destroyed by the tragedy of World War II and communism. The Novena began on August 26, 1956 in Czestochowa, where more than a million people took the Jasna Gora Pledge of the Polish Nation – a commitment to religious, moral and social renewal ( The Jasna Gora Pledge were taken on the three hundredth anniversary of the Lviv Pledge, written by St. Andrew Bobola and taken on behalf of the Polish people by King John II Casimir Vasa on April 1, 1656 in the Cathedral of Lviv. The subsequent years of the Millennium Novena were an opportunity for reflection and practical action in the areas of protecting and realizing such values as the defense of faith, life in sanctifying Grace, defense of children’s lives, marital fidelity, family, support of youth, love and social justice, struggle against national vices, and reverence for Mary, The Most Holy Mother.

The communist authorities considered the Great Novena and the Millennium celebrations a threat to their own plans for secularization and communization of Polish society, so they took many actions to prevent this plan from being realized. Religious classes were removed from schools, the administrative decisions for building and renovation of churches were restricted, and people taking part in religious services and meetings were harassed. Despite these difficulties, the time of the Millennium Novena and the millennium celebrations became a great manifestation of faith and strengthening for Polish Catholics. The Primate, Polish bishops and priests took an active part in the preparations, prayers and meetings, as numerous photographs from that period show. The celebrations showed that Poles – despite the post-war communist propaganda – remained faithful to the Catholic Church and commonly regarded the Primate as the true leader of the nation.
The Jasna Góra Pledge of the Nation, the plan of the Novena of the Millennium and the project of the Millennium celebrations of the Baptism of Poland are the manifestation of the vision of Cardinal Wyszynski, who perfectly understood the importance of concern for the dignity of every man, building social bonds and attitudes of respect, especially for the weak or dependent people. He not only created a plan of action, but also knew how to inspire thousands of people in the difficult communist times to carry it out. The visionary plan of social renewal prepared by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski is an unfinished project that is worth continuing.