Polish Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz dies at age 97

Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

Retired Archbishop of Wroclaw, Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, died on Monday at the age of 97, the Polish Bishops' Conference (KEP) announced on its official Twitter account.

"Today before noon, at the age of 97, Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz passed away", said the Twitter statement.

Gulbinowicz, who died in Wroclaw, had come under investigation by the Holy See for his alleged involvement in sexual abuse.

Earlier this month, the Holy See announced that the retired cardinal had been banned from all public appearances and was ordered to compensate his apparent victims.

According to the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland, the cardinal, one of Poland’s most senior clerics, had also been banned from public ministry and the use of the bishop's insignia. He also cannot be buried in the archdiocesan cathedral after his death.

In May 2019, the prosecutor's office in Wroclaw received a notice from attorney Artur Nowak that said the archbishop had committed the crime of sexual harassment against his client, Karol Chum.

The cardinal was also ordered to donate a specific amount of money towards the activities of the Saint Joseph Foundation. The association, established by the Polish Episcopal Conferences, supports the activities of the Church helping victims of sexual abuse by providing psychological assistance. It also trains people responsible for the protection of minors.

Henryk Gulbinowicz was born in 1923 in the pre-war Vilnius region. In the mid-1950s, he obtained a PhD degree in the field of moral theology and ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 1976, he became Wroclaw metropolitan archbishop, and a cardinal in 1985.

During martial law, Gulbinowicz supported the activists of the anti-communist Lower Silesian Solidarity trade union, by, for example, hiding around PLN 80 million (EUR 17.9 mln.) of union's money in the Bishop's Palace. After the imposition of martial law, the cardinal helped in establishing an underground organisation in Wroclaw. However, publications of the Institute of National Remembrance show he also cooperated with the former communist-era Security Service.

He worked in the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

He participated in the work of the 8th ordinary session of the World Synod of Bishops in the Vatican. Gulbinowicz is an honorary doctor of four Wroclaw universities, including the Pontifical Faculty of Theology.