Campaigners protest at plans to exume Divine Mercy priest

Father Jozef Jarzembowski

Father Jozef Jarzembowski

News that the Marian Fathers want to exume the body of the priest who brought the Divine Mercy cult to the UK and America,  is creating shockwaves throughout the Polish community in England, writes  Bozena Karol.

Efforts by the order to sell Fawley Court in Henley on Thames, a huge riverside property used by the Polish community as a retreat centre, are being strongly resisted by a number of campaigning groups. The site includes a 17th building designed by Christopher Wren, and grade II listed church in extensive grounds.

The discovery that the Marian Fathers have applied for a licence to exhume  the body of Father Jozef Jarzembowski from the grounds of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary & St Ann is being seen as a pre-emptive move before appeals to save the property have been heard.

Fr Jozef, who died in 1964, was a leading figure in the Polish emigree community. A writer and poet, he established a Polish museum, a library and School for boys at Fawley Court.  In recent years these have been commemorated on Polish stamps, as one of the four key monuments of Polish culture outside Poland itself.

During the Communist regime in Poland he organised the largest meetings of Free Poles every Whit Sunday, on the largest piece of ‘Free Poland’ in Europe.

The church was  listed as Grade II by English Heritage on 28 September this year.  Designed by the architect Wladyslaw Jarosz under the patronage of Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill it is a striking modern building, constructed in a style reminiscent of a Polish mountain chalet. With walls covered in brass plates, the church is the only Shrine of Divine Mercy in Britain.

One of the reasons given for the listing,  by Ian Dunlop of the Department  of Culture, Media & Sport is, that it is: "of special historic interest to the Polish Roman Catholic Community and which has associations with the Polish Royal Family as the resting place of Prince Radziwill and which was built as a memorial to his mother, Princess Lubomirska".

Fr Jozef brought the Cult of Divine Mercy from  Poland to the West under the guidance of  Fr Michael Sopocko, the Personal Confessor of St Faustyna herself.

During World War Two  he was imprisoned in a Russian labour camp. While he was there he made a promise that if he survived he  would set up shrines to Divine Mercy.

A spokeswoman said: “During his lifetime, Fr Jozef would point out the spot where he  wanted to be buried. To go against his wishes now dishonours his memory. His life is an inspirational example of what can be achieved. Fr Jozef's achievements were underpinned by British people who helped and supported him over the years.”

She added that the news was even more “incredible” because the Marian Fathers' website names  Fr Josef as someone who may be a candidate for beatification.

“Trying to erase Fawley Court from the map of Catholic Britain and applying to exhume his body can only undermine his achievements,” she said, adding:  “As we approach All Souls Day, a time of year where Polish cemeteries abound with flowers and candles in commemoration of their loved ones, let us respect the wishes of Fr Jarzembowski and leave him to rest in peace, in that piece of paradise which he found on Earth.”

There was no one available for comment from the Marian Fathers at the time of this posting.

If you wish to stop the exhumation please contact:  Paul Ansell, Coroners and Burials Division, Ministry of Justice, Petty France
Tel: 0203 334 6388  E-mail:

For more information about Fawley Court and the campaign to save it see: (English version available)

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