AFRICA/ZAMBIA - A tribute to Cardinal Adam Kozłowiecki: first Bishop of Lusaka, then for 20 years national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zambia

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Lusaka (Agenzia Fides)-“I would recall Cardinal Adam Kozłowiecki with the words used by the French Ambassador in 2006, when he presented the Cardinal with the Legion of d' Honneur: “Your life, Your Eminence, is an extraordinary resume of trials and hopes of Europeans in the twentieth century. You have been a political prisoner, a deportee, a refugee, a stateless person, a priest, an educationist, a developer, an administrator, a prince of the Roman Catholic Church”. This is how Fr. James McGloin, Jesuit Provincial for Zambia and Malawi, recalls Cardinal Adam Kozłowiecki, Jesuit missionary in Zambia and first Archbishop of Lusaka, the capital who died on 28 September at the age of 96.
“Born of noble parents in Huta Komorowska, Poland on 1 April 1911 (“I was an April fish ” he used to say jokingly) Cardinal Kozłowiecki” - said Fr. McGloin - “was educated with his brothers at the Jesuit College in Chyrów, today in Ukraine. Because of young Adam's interest in the Jesuit Order his parents sent him to a private school in Poznan”. Adam finished school, renounced his title and heritage and entered the Jesuit Order in Stara Wies. After completing his studies in 1939, he was sent to Krakow but that very day Poland was invaded by Germany and he could not go to Krakow. “But Fr Adam” the Provincial recalls “did not desist and in the end he walked to Krakow. Two weeks later he was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo with 24 confreres”. In June 1940 he was sent to Auschwitz and then Dachau, where he stayed until the war ended in 1945. Fr. Adam said this about those years in prison: "It was the best noviciate training I ever received, much better than what the Jesuits had given me.” Or he would joke, “I spent five years as a special guest of Adolf Hitler.” Or again, “Hitler was very afraid of me. That’s why he had me locked up.”. In his memoirs Ucisk I Strapienie (Oppression and Grief) he says this six-month period in the camp was the most difficult of all his years of imprisonment”. He left Germany with no other documents except a certificate stating that he was inmate No 22187 of Dachau camp. Arriving in Rome, he was very well received by his fellow Jesuits. He expressed to his superiors his strong desire to return to Poland for work. Yet, directly contrary to what he hoped to do, he was asked if he would be willing to go to Africa, to work as a missionary in Northern Rhodesia where there was already a Polish Jesuit presence. He did not want to go to Africa, but since the request came from his superiors, he felt he had to be faithful to his vow of obedience and he answered, “Yes, I will go.” While in Rome, he pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit.
He arrived in Lusaka on 14 April 1946. His first assignment was at one of the oldest Jesuit missions, Kasisi. Later, he was given the management of the Catholic primary schools in the area. From his time in Kasisi, he developed a close attachment to simple, rural people, an attachment which remained with him to his last working days.
After four years in Kasisi, he was made the Administrator of the Vicariate of Lusaka to replace the ageing Monsignor Bruno Wolnik, S.J. who had been the Administrator since 1927. Then, in 1955, Monsignor Adam was ordained a bishop and named Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate of Lusaka. Four years later the Pope established the different Dioceses in the country and appointed Bishop Adam as the first Archbishop of Lusaka. As Archbishop of Lusaka he took active part in the Second Vatican Council (1961-1965). When AMACEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa) was established in 1961, Archbishop Adam was elected its first chairman.
After the independence of Zambia in 1964, Archbishop Adam was convinced that the archbishop of the capital city should be an African. Finally in 1969 his resignation was accepted and he handed over the administration of the Archdiocese to the newly ordained Archbishop causing a great public stir. Since then he worked as a 'normal priest' as he used to say, and for twenty years was national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. In 1998 Pope John Paul II created him a Cardinal. “I accept with deep gratitude this as a sign of recognition for a simple missionary” he wrote to the Holy Father. The Cardinal also received the French Legion d'Honneur in 2006 and the highest decorations of Poland and Zambia. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 2/10/2007 righe 45 parole 667)