By Emily Drooby and Tablet Staff
GREENPOINT — Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio described the vandalism to the statue of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko in McCarren Park Wednesday as a “despicable act” and a “hate crime.”
“It is disheartening to learn the statue of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a man who devoted his life to the advancement of freedom and liberty, has been vandalized once again,” Bishop DiMarzio said in a statement.
The statue was found covered in garbage around its base with a large plastic trash bag placed over the slain priest’s head. The words “No Polish” were also scrawled on the stone, authorities said.
“This statue has long stood in Greenpoint’s McCarren Park in tribute to a Polish priest who is revered by Catholics and the Polish community for his courage and leadership in championing peaceful resistance to communism,” DiMarzio continued. “I definitely consider this despicable act to be a hate crime and would encourage the NYPD to classify it as such.”
The NYPD launched an investigation May 6 into the vandalism of the statue that memorialized Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was murdered in 1984 in retaliation for his work in support of Poland’s Solidarity movement. The priest was declared a martyr in 2009 by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and beatified in 2010.
“We are very aware of the significance to the @NYPD94Pct Polish community,” the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force tweeted on May 5.
Father Popiełuszko was considered a holy man dedicated to God’s people not only by Bishop DiMarzio, who once visited his grave in Poland and also has a first-class relic of the priest, but also to one of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Polish bishops.
Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski has said Father Popiełuszko was an inspiration to him during his formative years in the priesthood. The year before the bishop joined the seminary, he participated in Father Popiełuszko’s funeral Mass.
“He fought for the truth,” the bishop told The Tablet in 2015. “He said that the truth will make you free — like Pope John Paul II. We grew up on those sentences.”
At the age of 37, Father Popiełuszko was kidnapped and beaten to death in Poland as a freedom fighter within the country’s solidarity movement during the then-communist regime. He spread his message of nonviolence throughout Europe and also served as a chaplain to the Polish trade union that opposed the communist government. Three men in the Polish secret service were convicted of his murder.
The NYPD is asking anyone with information to call 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).
Additional reporting by Melissa Enaje.