Pope Francis sends condolences after death of Cardinal Grocholewski

The late Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, pictured in 2012. Credit: Matthew Rarey/CNA.

Pope Francis offered his condolences after Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski died early Friday at the age of 80.

The cardinal had worked closely with popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the former prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Polish bishops’ conference announced the cardinal’s death July 17.

“I remember with gratitude the honourable work carried out by him as a valued professor of canon law in the Pontifical Gregorian and Lateran Universities, also as an author of many academic publications,” Pope Francis wrote in the telegram sent to the cardinal’s brother Friday.

The pope said that Grocholewski’s service and work in the Vatican had provided a “witness of priestly zeal, loyalty to the Gospel, and to building up the Church.”

Grocholewski was born on October 11, 1939 in Bródki, Poland. He was ordained in the Archdiocese of Poznań on May 27, 1963, and served for three years at Christ the Redeemer Parish before earning a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.

He worked at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura as notary, chancellor, secretary and perfect from 1972 to 1999. During this time he was one of the seven members of the commission that studied the draft of the 1983 Code of Canon Law with John Paul II, and he taught canon law at the Gregorian and Lateran Universities and the Studio Rotale.

John Paul II appointed Grocholewski as a titular bishop in 1982. He was later made an archbishop in 1991 and a cardinal in 2001. 

He was the postulator for the canonization cause of St. Edmund Bojanowski, canonized by St. John Paul II in Warsaw in 1999, and of Blessed Sancja Janina Szymkowiak.

In 1999, Grocholewski was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which he led up until the retirement of Benedict XVI. He participated in the conclaves of 2005 and 2013 that elected Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis respectively.

Grocholewski served as the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University until his death.

The cardinal’s funeral will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 18. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, vice dean of the College of Cardinals, will offer the Mass after which Pope Francis will preside over the rite of final commendation and farewell. 

“While I lift up my prayer to the Lord Jesus so that He will give him the eternal prize promised to his disciples, I offer him and to those who mourn his death an apostolic blessing,” Pope Francis said.