Blessed Bernard Lichtenberg was born on the 3rd of December, 1875, in Ohlau in the Prussian province of Silesia, near Breslau, where he was ordained in 1899. In 1900, he began his priestly service in Berlin. He was appointed parson of the Sacred Heart parish in the quarter of Charlottenburg in 1913, where he laid the foundation for five parishes and a monastery as a pioneer in the building of Catholic communities in the ever growing metropolis and capital of the German Empire; he also was a member of the local parliament for the German Catholics’ party, called The Centre. In 1931, the first bishop of the newly erected diocese of Berlin, the Most Reverend Dr. Christian Schreiber, made him a member of the Cathedral Chapter and, in 1932, appointed him parson of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. He became Cathedral Provost of St. Hedwig’s in 1938. Since the excesses against the jews on the 9th of November, 1939, he held evening prayers at St. Hedwig’s – thousand meters from Hitler’s Reich chancellery – interceding publicly and emphatically for them. Having protested again in August 1941 against the euthanasia programme of the Nazi government, he was arrested in October due to the denuciation of two visitors of his evening prayers and, on the 22nd of May, 1942, already gravely ill, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, which he endured in Christian patience as a „prisoner in the Lord“. Because the authorities judged Lichtenberg to be „incorrigible“, they ordered his further detention and the transport to the concentration camp of Dachau. On the way there, blessed Bernard collapsed in Hof on the River Saale and gave up his soul to the Lord on the 5th of November, 1943. In April 1965 the process of his beatification was instituted; on the 23rd of June, 1996, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, elevated blessed Bernard to the honour of the altars at a solemn Pontifical Mass in the Olympic stadiumn of Berlin. His tomb is situated in the crypt of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin. His Feast is celebrated in the archbishopric of Berlin on the 5th of November as a Memorial..
Cardinal Boleslaw Kominek
Bolesław Kominek was born in Radlin, German Empire (today part of Wodzisław Śląski) to Franciszek, a miner, and Kataryna (née Kozielski) Kominek. Studying at the gymnasium of Rybnik and the Catholic University of Kraków.
He was ordained to the priesthood by the same Bishop Lisiecki on September 11, 1927 in Katowice, and then furthered his studies at the “Institut Catholique de Paris” and did pastoral work among the Polish immigrants in Paris until 1930. Kominek did pastoral work in the Diocese of Katowice from 1930 to 1939, and with Polish fugitives during World War II until 1945, serving in Lublin, Katowice, and Upper Silesia. He was named one-sidedly Apostolic Administrator of Opole on August 15, 1945 by August Cardinal Hlond although this was not recognized by the Vatican; Kominek’s ministry was interrupted by the Communist regime of Poland on January 26, 1951.
On April 26, 1951, Kominek was appointed Titular Bishop of “Sophene” by Pope Pius XII. His residence was designated as Wrocław (Breslau), but the Communist regime forbade him from assuming residence there and from being consecrated. The Holy See refused to appoint Kominek as archbishop of Wrocław/Breslau, as at that time the German bishop Theodor Bensch was still firmly considered to be the legitimate Catholic archbishop of Breslau. Nevertheless, Kominek received his episcopal consecration clandestinely on October 10, 1954 from Bishop Franciszek Barda, with Bishops Franciszek Jop and Wojciech Tomaka serving as co-consecrators. The consecration was kept secret until 1956, during October of which he finally settled in Wrocław. Kominek was later named Titular Bishop of “Vaga” on December 1, 1956, Titular Archbishop of “Euchaitae” on March 19, 1962, and Apostolic Administrator “ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” on May 25, 1962. From 1962 to 1965, he attended the Second Vatican Council. In June 1966, “Życie Warszawy” called for the removal of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński and for Kominek as his replacement; however, the latter responded by stating, “On questions of the existence of the Church, we [the hierarchy] are always together”.
Pope Paul VI appointed him the second Archbishop of Wrocław on June 28, 1972, and created him Cardinal Priest of “S. Croce in via Flaminia” in the consistory of March 5, 1973. Cardinal Kominek later died in Wrocław, at the age of 70, and is buried at the metropolitan cathedral of Wrocław.
He was the main author and one of the initiators of the Pastoral Letter of the Polish Bishops to Their German Brothers. Sent on the 18th of November 1965, it was the first opportunity for Polish and German bishops to establish closer ties after World War II. In this document, Polish bishops recall the difficult history of Polish-German relations, invite their German counterparts to participate in the celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Poland in 1966 and ask them for reconciliation: ‘In the Christian, of course, but also very human spirit, we extend our hands to you who are sitting here on the benches of the Council, which is coming to an end, and we grant you forgiveness and ask for it’. The Letter met with a strong objection from the Communist authorities and caused repressions against the Church in Poland. German bishops replied to the Letter on the 5th of December 1965.
This letter was extremely important in the process of Poland’s return to Europe. This is evidenced by, among others, a note by Cardinal Kominek to Cardinal Wyszyński: ‘The manner of speaking cannot be nationalistic, but it must be European in the deepest sense of the word. Europe is the future – nationalisms are of yesterday. (…) The discussion [should be] deepening on the organisation of a federal solution for all peoples of Europe, including through a gradual abandonment of national sovereignty in matters of security, economy and foreign affairs,’ (from: B. Kerski, T. Kycia, R. Żurek, Przebaczamy i prosimy o przebaczenie [We Forgive and Ask For Forgiveness], Olsztyn: 2006, pp. 52-53).