Łączymy wyrazy szacunku,
His Holiness Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City
Apostolic Nunciature in Great Britain
delivered by hand on 31st March 2014
RE: THE UNLAWFUL SALE OF THE ANGLO-POLISH HERITAGE IN FAWLEY COURT, DESECRATION OF THE LIVING CHURCH, UNLAWFUL EXHUMATION OF FATHER JOSEF JARZEBOWSKI – DISCRIMINATION OF THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”
We speak on behalf of the Anglo-Polish community in the UK and wish to express our great gratitude for all Your Holiness’s endeavours to reform and refresh the image of the Catholic Church. This brings hope to those who thus far saw the dissonance between what is being preached and what is being practiced by the Holy See.
It transpires that your Holiness is well aware of a need to tackle the evil that is lurking within the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the proximity of the Vatican Bank. That requires wisdom and courage.
It is that evil within the Roman Catholic Church that is the subject of our desperate letter.
For the last 4 years the Anglo-Polish community in the UK has been ceaselessly campaigning in order to bring to justice the Catholic Congregation of Marian Fathers, who sold, in breach of trust, the property, which was considered the Anglo-Polish heritage and was purchased after the Second World War and maintained for over 50 years through public donations.
Your Holiness is certainly aware that after the Second World War, as a result of the illegal Teheran and Yalta agreements, Poland fell under communist regime. Many Polish soldiers refused to return to Poland, controlled by the Soviets, and settled in the United Kingdom. They were later joined by their families and dependants. In these circumstances, there was a great need of an institution which would provide pastoral and educational care to the Anglo-Polish community and would help to preserve Polish tradition and culture.
The history of purchase of Fawley Court and its unlawful disposal
The idea of a school for Polish boys in England was initiated by the chaplaincy priest, Father Stanislaw Belch, who was the chaplain of Polish army in France and England. He appointed the Catholic Congregation of Marian Fathers with a mission of organizing a school for boys and initiated the funding for boys school in Hereford.
Father Jozef Jarzebowski, founder of the Divine Mercy College in Fawley Court
A head of the Marian Fathers Congregation – Father Josef Jarzebowski, a great teacher and patriot, from Bielany School in Warsaw, a devotee of Divine Mercy, had only £50 in his pocket, when he came to London in 1950 to set up and run a school for Polish boys.
Father Jarzebowski was an extraordinary priest. He was clearly chosen by God. He managed to escape from Vilnus, during the most critical time of Soviet occupation and smuggled Father Sopocko’s treatise on Divine Mercy. Since his successful escape, he promised to God to commit himself to spreading the message of the Divine Mercy. He remains one of the most illuminate members of the Marian Fathers Congregation, who consider themselves official promoters of the Divine Mercy message.
With the help of God and donations from the Anglo-Polish community, Fr. Jarzebowski managed to purchase in 1953, for the sum of £11, 000, a unique mansion near Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire, known as Fawley Court. It must be stated very clearly that the Marian Fathers had minor equitable interest in the property with the Polish Community being the major financial contributor and beneficiary. In 1956 the Sodalis Marianus, the Marian Fathers’ own magazine, explicitly reported that the Marian Fathers were able to collect merely £2000 of almost £11,000 needed to purchase the property. The remaining sum came from public donations and a loan, which was paid off in 1960-ties with the assistance of the Association of Polish Combatants.
Additionally, the Marian Fathers signed in 1953 a declaration of trust, committing themselves to settle the property upon a charitable and educational trust.
The school came into existence in 1954, under name of the Divine Mercy College. The Divine Mercy College in Fawley Court was based on the model of a Bielany school in Warsaw – with a school museum and a library. These were the essential parts of boy’s education, with Pentecost celebrations, conventions of Polish émigré community and exhibitions of national memorabilia.
Fawley Court became the cultural and religious centre for the Anglo-Polish community. In 1969 Cardinal Wyszynski, the primate of Poland blessed the land, on behalf of Cardinal Wojtyla, who later become Pope John Paul II:
“(…) I am grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Metropolitan of Kraków, that he agreed, in my name, to bless the land under the church-shrine of St Anne and Our Lady of Jasnogóra, Queen of Poland, [so that in Fawley Court], like a new Czestochowa, she will be a Mother and Comforter to you, because she has been ordained by God Himself to protect the Polish Nation. (…)” (Cardinal Wyszynski 1969)
A uniquely designed church was founded on the site in 1971 by a member of Polish Royal Family, Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, “to serve the Divine Mercy College and the faithful who come there” (Church Deed 1971). St Anne’s Church was located next to Father Jarzebowski’s grave. Prince Stanislaw Radziwill has been buried in the crypt of the church, in accordance with his last wish.
Mass at the St Anne’s Church in Fawley Court
Unfortunately, in 1980-ties new trustees came on board and they discontinued with Father Jarzebowski’s legacy by closing the school mid-term in 1986, in breach of trust and covenants. It is clear that already at that time the Marian Fathers carried an intention to sell Fawley Court for profit. This is epitomised by the memorial plaques in the church, which were ordered in thanksgiving for not selling the land.
Fawley Court was not sold but the school no longer functioned. The property was turned into a conference and retreat centre. It soon became a Divine Mercy Sanctuary, the only such place in the UK devoted to spreading the message of the Divine Mercy. In 1999 Bishop of Northampton issued a decree and made Fawley Court a sacred destination of Christian pilgrimage. The same year Fawley Court was featured on Polish stamps, as national heritage.
Around the same time, in 2000, in anticipation of sale, the Marian Fathers removed the original charity (251717) registered in 1967 under Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and registered a new charity, the Marian Fathers Charitable Trust (107568 ), with different objectives. The new deed no longer mentioned the educational trusts. Shortly after the death of Polish Pope John Paul II in 2005, the Marian Fathers initiated informal discussions with the Holy See on the proposed sale of the property. Sadly, it transpires from the documents that there was consent for sale from Roman Curia and the person who oversaw this ‚project’ was Cardinal Rode. Father Jarzebowski’s beatification process was suddenly withheld by the church authorities.
Additionally, Fawley Court housed a museum, with hundreds of invaluable artefacts from Polish history. Father Jarzebowski had passion for Poland’s glorious history and had been collecting incunabula, manuscripts and autographs of great Poles, historical documents and memorabilia. Father Jarzebowski’s museum in Fawley Court, which was opened to the public in 1982 served the Divine Mercy College and was a cultural bridge, were many Polish and English children could learn of Polish history and our common European heritage. In 2007, the museum was closed and all these artefacts were moved to various places in Poland, without the consent of donors and beneficiaries. Some of the artefacts were sold at private auctions. An example was the ancient sculpture of Commodus, which was purchased by Fr. Jarzebowski in Mexico and sold by the Marian Fathers at Christie auction in 2005, for the sum of £105,000.
Father Jarzebowski with the sculpture of Commodus, sold by the Marian Fathers at Christie auction for the sum of £105,000
The protests of the Anglo-Polish community
The Anglo-Polish community sought the preservation of Fawley Court so that other generations of Poles born in the United Kingdom could cherish their cultural and religious heritage. The missionary need is greater than ever before, after the influx of young Poles, which took place as a consequence of Poland’s accession to the European Union.
Protests against the announced sale lasted for years and were undertaken by various formal and informal organisations. Letters of protest where sent to the Marian Father’s Superior General in Rome, MIC Rokosz and to Pope Benedict XVI but these were stone-walled. Polish Catholic Mission offered to acquire Fawley Court from the Marian Fathers for the sum of £8 million but their offer has been rejected.
Save Fawley Court Heritage Committee offered to lease the premises for the sum of £600,000 a year, and to open a University but their offer has also been rejected.
Eventually, in 2010, the land was sold into private ownership, at a knock down price of £13 million and under the circumstances which did not give the appearance of legitimacy. In accordance with the 2010 Charity Commission accounts, £4 million from the proceeds of sale was transferred to the Vatican Bank and £1 million was transferred to the Marian Fathers’ headquarters in Rome. These institutions were unjustly enriched with the money that belonged to the educational trust of the Divine Mercy College and are a shameful example of taking advantage of the most vulnerable and faithful members of the Anglo-Polish community.
It is important to emphasize that the purchaser of Fawley Court was not a ‘bona fide purchaser for value without notice’. Ms Hersham (a wealthy and influential Jewish socialite who purchased the property via an offshore company, Cherrilow Ltd) knew that the Anglo-Polish community had an overriding interest in Fawley Court and this is clear from the documents. The property has been transferred with a limited title.
Electric wiring has been installed at the gates of Fawley Court and mercenaries were employed as bodyguards, to scare off the potential visitors and pilgrims. The access to St Anne’s Church has been continuously denied by current ‚owners’, despite the Marian Father’s previous assertions that the church would be retained for worship.
Desecration of the Church of St Anne and graves of the Polish nobility
The unlawful disposal of Fawley Court was accompanied by the desecration of the Church of St Anne and graves of Polish nobility.
Your Holiness should know that St Anne’s Church was listed in 2009 by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport as of special architectural and historic interest. The reasons put forward for the Grade II listing included that it was:
“of special historic interest for its significance 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”.
Apart from the tomb of Prince Radziwill and his son Anthony, the Church had a columbarium, which housed urns with human remains of the Polish nobility. The urns were removed by the Marian Father’s without the required licence. To date the Anglo-Polish community has not been officially notified of the whereabouts of these urns.
Despite the importance of the St Anne’s Church to the Anglo-Polish community, both on religious and historical grounds, the Marian Fathers de-consecrated it, against the wishes of the community, in breach of the 1971 Church Deed and Canon 1222.
Most shockingly, the Marian Fathers agreed, under the sale contract, to remove the remains of Father Jarzebowski and Prince Radziwill, for the sum of £3,5 million.
Father Wojciech Jasinski, the Provincial of the Marian Fathers Congregation who orchestrated the sale of Fawley Court and unlawful removal of human remains of Polish nobility
In 2011 the Ministry of Justice issued an exhumation licence for the removal of Fr. Jarzebowski’s remains, upon the application made by the Provincial of the Marian Fathers, Father Wojciech Jasinski, the same who was arrested in 2009 for the illegal exhumation of human remains of Witus Orlowski, a boy known to save the life of Father Jarzebowski, in Mexico.
Because of the transfer of Fawley Court, the courts considered Fr. Jarzebowski’s exhumation a necessity and approved the licence granted by the Ministry of Justice, despite the opposition from Fr. Jarzebowski’s nearest blood relative, Mrs Elzbieta Rudewicz and 2000 letters of opposition sent from the members of the Anglo-Polish community. The courts made the decision, approving the exhumation of Fr. Jarzebowski, in breach of our human rights (namely art 6, art 8, art 9 and art 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and in breach of the UN Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The result of this court case created a new and highly questionable precedent of unethical treatment of human remains and cultural property in the UK. Most worryingly, this precedent originates in the actions of a Catholic Congregation and Roman Curia, the same which will elevate Polish Pope John Paul II to sainthood this year.
Father Jarzebowski was exhumed on 31st August 2012 and reburied at the Fairmaile Cemetary, in Henley on Thames, in secrecy. No cross has been erected on his grave and no members of his family were present.
Father Jarzebowski’s grave after the exhumation
The Marian Fathers continued ‚mission’
We are deeply concerned with the fact the Marian Fathers, who committed sacrilege and fraud, continue to carry out the pastoral care at the biggest Polish Roman Catholic parish in the UK – the Parish of Our Lady Mother of the Church, in London Borough of Ealing. Despite numerous protests, petitions and mass interruptions, they are still holding the grip, enjoying substantive revenues from Sunday masses and other religious ceremonies, without providing adequate pastoral care to the Anglo-Polish community.
Their successful disposal of Fawley Court, encouraged them to prey further. The Chancellor of Polish Catholic Mission declared that the Marian Fathers plan to overtake the ownership of many other properties, where the parishioners’ interests have not been properly secured. This concerns in particular the parish church, at 2 Windsor Road in Ealing, 1 & 7 Courtfield Gardens, and houses at Twyford Avenue in Acton, London, which were donated to serve the elderly and the community.
Other issues have also been reported such as the abuse of the elderly and the vulnerable and falsification of wills.
Our plea and prayer
The sale of Fawley Court, desecration of the living church and graves of Polish patriots was an act of aggression against the Anglo-Polish community and their cultural and religious heritage. As a result of the Marian Fathers activities approx. 1 million of Polish Catholics in Great Britain lost a place of worship. Many have lost their faith in Roman Catholic Church and Divine Mercy. Thousands of children lost the opportunity to attend the Anglo-Polish school and benefit from the rich museum collection. The new precedent set by the Marian Fathers will encourage others to conduct criminal activities, criminal destruction of graves and heritage sites for mercenary purposes. The Marian Fathers have effectively revoked all their vows and disregarded the Evangelical Counsel of poverty and obedience to the Christ. Their activities manifestly breach the First Commandment and contradict the teachings of Christ. They breached Canon 121, 122 and 1222 by selling Fawley Court, against the wishes of donors and beneficiaries and by de-consecrating the living church.
In these exceptional circumstances, we have no other choice but to ask Your Holiness for the following interventions:
A thorough investigation into the Marian Fathers’ financial activities and freezing of the £4 million in the Vatican Bank and £1 million in Curia Generalizia Dei Padri Mariani, which money belong to the educational trust of the Divine Mercy College.
Removal of the Marian Fathers from administration of any parishes and properties in Great Britain, which serve the Anglo-Polish community, in particular the immediate removal of the Marian Fathers from the Polish R.C. Parish of Our Lady Mother of the Church in Ealing and appointment of such a congregation, which would provide adequate pastoral care to the community.
Provision of legal support for the recovery of Fawley Court and restitution of the Divine Mercy College and Divine Mercy Sanctuary. This will involve a number of court cases and we expect the Roman Curia to cover that and associated expenses. The signatories of this letter undertake to construe a new trust, upon which the property will be settled, which wording will safeguard the interests of donors and beneficiaries.
While making these requests, we speak for the Anglo-Polish community but in particular we speak for the following vulnerable groups:
The Anglo-Polish children, who have no Anglo-Polish school to attend. Only in 2010, when the Marian Fathers sold Fawley Court, in breach of trust, Polish women gave birth to approx 20,000 children. These children need a school and a cultural centre. Fawley Court was registered under the Divine Mercy College, to serve education needs of the Anglo-Polish community. Your Holiness, as a Jesuit, will surely understand the importance of Christian education and the need for restoration of the Divine Mercy College in Fawley Court.
The elderly, who, for many years donated their last savings to preserve Fawley Court for future generations. They often contributed in kind and were emotionally connected with the place. Some of them lost their faith, some had suicidal thoughts. We must restore their faith in Divine Mercy.
The dead, who no longer can defend themselves and deserve to rest in peace. Respect for the dead and their legacy is part of our culture and tradition, which we equally defend. Father Jarzebowski’s grave must be reconstructed in Fawley Court and urns with human remains of the Polish nobility must return to St Anne’s Church.
Your Holiness preached that: ‚this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy”. We humbly ask your Holiness to deliver the Anglo-Polish community the message of mercy, in the name of God and in reverence for our beloved Pope, John Paul II, who blessed that land and committed it for the divine purposes.
Your children in Christ,
nearest blood relative of Father Józef Jarzębowski
On behalf of
Father Józef Jarzębowski,
founder of the Divine Mercy College in Fawley Court
World War II veteran
press secretary of the Association of Polish Combatants in Great Britain
awarded with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
On behalf of
old generation of Polish émigré community
a charitable association of young Poles, who actively campaign for the recovery of the Anglo-Polish heritage and restoration of the Divine Mercy College
On behalf of
young generation of Poles in Great Britain
Please, direct all the correspondence to the below address:
34 New House
67-68 Hatton Garden
London, EC1N 8JY
Tel: +44 (0)7565107442